THE FIRST ROUND PINOY PLAYER
BY HINDSON HER
2020/10/29 · Hindson Her
Amongst the thirty-plus new players that showed up at the tryout session for the international 5x5 basketball leagues in Seoul on Sunday, October 17th was a Filipino-American named Matt Hettel who looked like your average recreational league baller at the local YMCA. He lined up with everyone else and patiently waited to check in at the registration table. When it was his turn, he quietly paid the participation fee, sat down to take his photo for the scouting report, and provided his information: guard, 175 cm (5'9''), 79 kg (174 lbs).
Nothing he had done or said up to this point made him a standout. That was until he had the rock in his hands at warmups.
Now, there are only two hoops in the gym so there are a lot of basketball shots being thrown up at this time; some were going in, some were misses, but from where I was sitting at the table near the half-court line, I started to hear the rim on the left side of the court rattling. I glanced up to see another player Femi McKenize throwing down dunks. Fun to see but not surprised considering his height and athleticism.
I tell our photographer, Francois Harris, to go over and snap some photos of the high-flyer. As he’s starting to prep his equipment, I also see the 175 cm Filipino-American guard exchanging dunks with Femi.
Was I really seeing this? This man had some serious bounce in his legs and I thought to myself, this guy is something special! Not only that, he started putting up shots and his J was as smooth as ice. Fast-forward a few hours and the guys are running 5x5 scrimmage games. Matt’s playing as well and he’s cooking whoever was in front of him. Everyone who stayed behind and played definitely knew his name before leaving the gym.
The D1 League draft came and went and as expected he was drafted in the first round by The Carushow. He was the 5th overall pick and co-captains Justin Goldsmith and Ronnie Richard could not be happier with getting the sensational rookie guard on their team. With the second of back-to-back picks, The Carushow took Jon Austin and built a 3-headed backcourt monster.
The following Sunday was the D1 League opener and in his debut, Matt dropped 45 total points, 7 treys, on 47% shooting in 2 games. The team went 1-1 on the day but if and when the 3-headed backcourt monster starts clicking, oh boy, bring your popcorn. A few days later I messaged Matt over Instagram with a few interview-type questions and here are his answers.
Question: How did you get into basketball and what do you love most about it? What’s your level of experience with the game?
“I started playing when I was 6 years old after watching Allen Iverson on TV. What I love most about the game is the fact that it brings people together from all walks of life. The competition is always great too! As far as experience is concerned, I played college ball in states and after that a professional stint in the Philippines.”
Question: How did you end up in Korea?
“I always wanted to see what it was like in Korea so here I am!”
Question: What’s your connection with the Filipino community here in Korea?
“My connection with the Pinoy community here in Korea hopefully will just grow the longer I am here. Always nice to see kababayan abroad!”
Question: Anything else you would like to share with everyone?
“Just excited for the opportunity to hoop with the Project Ball community! Looking forward to all the good times ahead!”