This archived article was written by: Jennifer Jarrett
Leonta Matthews, more commonly known by teammates and students as Tay, is from Las Vegas, Nevada. He is the second oldest of four children, and the son of Minnie Matthews, who is also his inspiration in life. He graduated from Western High School. He got started in basketball while growing up and watching his older cousin play the game.
CEU learned about Mathews a few years ago. Matthew’s teammate at Western High, a former CEU player, told the coaches about him. They were able to watch him play and noticed right away his athletic abilities, hard work, and desire to play.
“Tay is a great athlete. He has excellent athletic ability. That and his attitude, the fact that he is a team player, are two of his greatest strengths,” Coach Bryan Zollinger said. “He is a good student and he stays out of trouble. Anytime you have those two things, it makes the coach’s job a lot easier.”
Matthews came to CEU after deciding, “It had good coaching, it was in a good conference, and a great environment.” Matthews is playing the forward position and has played the position for two years.
His favorite part of playing for CEU has been getting to know and playing with his teammates. He said, “It is cool how we all come from different cities and states and we all act like we grew up together as a family.” Zollinger pointed out that, “He has been able to put the teams’ goals in front of his own and doesn’t care who gets the credit as long as the team as a whole succeeds. He is definitely not looking for individual rewards and does what he can to help the team.”
“Tay gets along especially well with his teammates,” Zollinger said. “He has faced adversity all through his life and has been in situations most people never have to deal with. It has made him a stronger, more mature person. It has given him the ability to fit in with any group. He is extremely accepting and understanding of others.”
Students at CEU have noticed this warmth and friendliness in Matthews as they see him on campus. He treats everyone equal and enjoys getting involved in student activities. As students all commented how much they enjoy Tay, one particular story came up. As he was walking to his dorm for dinner with a bowl of spaghetti, Tay slipped on the ice, his feet flew in the air, and the spaghetti spilled all over him as he fell to the ground. As he was trying to clean up the spaghetti, he slipped again and fell even harder. Tay is willing to laugh about this with others and is content with who he is. He keeps his same standards and values and does not let others influence his decisions or choices.
“He doesn’t only have outstanding athletic qualities,” Zollinger added, “He is a good student and a good citizen. He realizes that you do not need to get into trouble for fun. People like Tay are a valuable asset not only to their college or school but to the community they are living in. I think he is still developing as an overall player. He made a comment in the beginning of the year that he learned more in his first few weeks here than in the last few years. I think that it has been great to watch him grow into such a fine player. He will definitely have opportunities to play in the future.”
As Matthews focuses on playing hard and making it to the National JUCO Tournament with his team, he does not put any less focus into his schoolwork. He is majoring in marketing and advertising and would someday like to create commercials. He has not decided yet exactly what school he will attend next year, but it will be one where he can have success in his studies and where he can play ball.