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Garrison Mathews is ready to put Lipscomb University on the NBA map

Garrison Mathews is ready to put Lipscomb University on the NBA map

WASHINGTON -- Garrison Mathews, believe it or not, was not always a shooter. He didn't consider himself one in high school or even early in college. But now, at 22 years old, he has a two-way contract with the Wizards and the primary reason is because of his outside shooting.

Mathews, in a sense, has shot his way to the NBA and is now poised to be the first player in the league ever to come from Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn.

"It's a crazy experience," Mathews said. "I enjoy being able to put Lipscomb on the map a little bit. Obviously, they haven't had much exposure and they've given me a lot. It's nice helping and giving back in a way."

So, how did we get here? Well, it wasn't always going to be about basketball. Mathews comes from Franklin, Tenn., where high school football is king. Mathews' grandfather was on the 1962 national championship team at Ole Miss. Mathews at one point was on track to follow in those footsteps.

He played wide receiver and tight end in high school and still misses the game.

"There's nothing like it," Mathews said of football.

But as he grew to 6-foot-5 with speed and an improving jumpshot, colleges came calling. And, once they did, Mathews made the difficult decision to focus on basketball full-time. 

Through his early years in college, Mathews realized playing in the NBA was a possiblity. So, he grinded through summers, sharpening his jumper. 

Slowly, but surely, they started falling more consistently.

"I don't know, it just kind of happened that way," Mathews said of becoming known for his shooting.

Mathews shot 34.9 percent from the perimeter his freshman year at Lipscomb. By his senior year, he was making 40.3 percent on eight attempts per game.

And it wasn't just the volume or the percentage that improved, it was the variety of shots he felt confident to even try. If anything has stood out about Mathews so far during his brief tenure with the Wizards, it is his ability to make shots without his feet being set.

Mathews made a shot in a preseason game against the Knicks on Oct. 7 in which his feet were facing the sideline when he caught the ball off a screen. He turned quickly before rising and knocked it down.

Mathews can straighten out his shooting form mid-air and it's something not many players can do. He has worked on it for years.

"There's a lot of times in my workouts where I'm coming off screens or practicing [dribble hand-offs] where I'm coming off a screen and just jumping in the air. That's part of my regiment when I work out," he said.

Mathews has made shots like that consistently in practice, but doing so in a game is a different story. Wizards head coach Scott Brooks has seen plenty of players come along who can't translate what they do in practices to games.

So, he's not ready to crown Mathews as the next J.J. Redick. 

"The percentages will be able to tell us eventually whether those are shots he can make or if we have to have better footwork," Brooks said.

"There's only a few guys that can really square up basically in mid-air and be able to have it. Brad [Beal] has the ability to do that and it took him some time. I don't know if he's one of them, Garrison."

The list of players who make those shots often certainly isn't long. Redick is one, and Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson of the Warriors can certainly be included. Kyle Korver of the Bucks also comes to mind.

Korver, in fact, spent some time with Mathews before the Wizards' game against Milwaukee on Oct. 13. Mathews says he has long been compared to Korver, so he listened intently to what Korver had to say.

"I appreciated that from him. It meant a lot," Mathews said.

"[He told me that] when he practices, when he does individual stuff, he goes as hard as he can. And then he works on his body almost as much as he does on the court."

Mathews is confident, but also realistic. He said he would like to follow Korver's path, but knows he has a long way to go to carve out a career like Korver has.

"I feel like later in my career I can be a little bit like him. Maybe not as great as him because he's a great shooter," Mathews said. "But it's cool being able to guard somebody that a lot of people compare you to when you were growing up."

Mathews has learned through his development as a shooter that hard work can lead to success and sometimes even in ways that are unexpected. Maybe someday he will be in Korver's shoes, offering advice to a young player looking up to him.

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2020 NBA Draft: Isaiah Stewart would give Wizards rebounding, but overall fit is questionable

2020 NBA Draft: Isaiah Stewart would give Wizards rebounding, but overall fit is questionable

The Washington Wizards are likely to have a lottery pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who could fall around where the Wizards will select...

2020 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Isaiah Stewart

Team: Washington
Position: Forward/center
Age: 19
Height: 6-9
Weight: 250
Wingspan: 7-4

2019/20 stats: 32 G, 32.2 mpg, 17.0 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 0.8 apg, 0.5 spg, 2.1 bpg, 57.0 FG% (6.0/10.5), 25.0 3PT% (0.2/0.6), 77.4 FT%

Player comparison: Jae Crowder, DeJuan Blair

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 21st, Sports Illustrated 16th, Ringer 27th, NBADraft.net 26th, Bleacher Report 26th

5 things to know:

*One of the strongest built players in this draft class, Stewart is a bruiser on the boards and on the block. He was a force in college, bullying his way to the rim with little resistance. His game is currently best-suited for the interior, as he lacks an outside shot. But he has been effective at every level of basketball so far playing that style, and his high motor will help his chances in the NBA.

*Stewart is one of the best rebounders in this class, averaging 8.8 per game including 2.8 on the offensive end. He was a bit inconsistent in that area, however. Seven times he grabbed five or fewer rebounds in a game, while 10 times he had 11 or more. He had 19 boards in a game against Oregon in January.

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*Stewart was also a standout rim-protector, averaging 2.1 blocks per game. Whether that will translate to the next level, however, is unclear given his height and the fact he does not appear to be an explosive leaper. He would have to rely on his length and instincts. Draymond Green makes that work, but few others have been able to.

*He hasn't shown many signs he can become a reliable outside shooter, but there are some. The fact he made 77.4 percent of his free throws is a positive. Also, he displays solid touch in the midrange. But given he didn't make many outside jumpers at all in college, he will be docked for his shooting in the pre-draft process.

*Stewart was a big-time recruit just one year ago. A McDonald's All-American and the high school player of the year, Stewart was ranked second in his class by Rivals and third by ESPN. The only player rated higher than him by Rivals was James Wiseman of Memphis.

Fit with Wizards: There are some things to like about Stewart's fit with the Wizards, especially the fact his two biggest strengths - rebounding and rim protection - happen to be arguably their most glaring weaknesses. His high energy and physical style of play would also be a nice change of pace on their roster.

If the Wizards drafted Stewart, he would likely slide into their bench as a back-up to Rui Hachimura and Thomas Bryant. He could play the four alongside Moe Wagner or the five in small-ball lineups, perhaps with Davis Bertans at the four, if Bertans indeed re-signs.

The fact Stewart is a committed rebounder and rim protector would give head coach Scott Brooks some lineup flexibility, though it's questionable how Stewart would fit alongside Hachimura given neither would be able to stretch the floor consistently. If Hachimura develops a more potent three-point shot, then they could better co-exist.

Given where Stewart is projected to go in this draft, though, it seems unlikely he will be a fit for where the Wizards are going to pick. He doesn't have the athleticism or well-rounded game to be a top-10 selection. Unless he slipped to the second round, or the Wizards made a trade, the two sides probably won't line up on draft night.

But if he were to somehow slip to them in the second round, Stewart could make a lot of sense for the Wizards. Given his NBA-ready strength and motor, he could be a high-floor type of player with a good chance of becoming a solid rotation piece.

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NBA engaged in conversations for a late-July return at Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex

NBA engaged in conversations for a late-July return at Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex

The NBA appears to be on the path to a return.

The league is in significant talks with the Walt Disney Company about restarting the 2019-20 season in late July, with Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando as the lone site to resume the games.

News first reported that Orlando emerged as the clear frontrunner on Wednesday, and NBA Chief Communications Officer Mike Bass confirmed such in a league statement.

"The NBA, in conjunction with the National Basketball Players Association, is engaged in exploratory conversations with The Walt Disney Company about restarting the 2019-20 NBA season in late July at Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Florida as a single site for an NBA campus for games, practices and housing," Bass said.

"Our priority continues to be the health and safety of all involved, and we are working with public health experts and government officials on a comprehensive set of guidelines to ensure that appropriate medical protocols and protections are in place," the statement concluded.

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The league was also considering both Las Vegas and Houston as potential sites to resume action, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. However, the NBA is reported to prefer the Orlando location due to it's closed campus and ample hotel options. Commissioner Adam Silver has said he doesn't believe the NBA will need to have a closed-off, "bubble-like" environment at the resort when teams do return.

Earlier this week, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the NBA was expected to release guidelines near June 1 for how its teams can recall out-of-market players to return. Wojnarowski called this the "first step toward a formal ramp-up for the season’s resumption."

The NBA season has been paused since March 11 when Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus.

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