Senior business major and basketball point-guard Dustin Mathis discovered his passion for the sport at a very young age. With a focus on marketing and entrepreneurship, he hopes to intertwine his love for sports and the skills the College of Business has taught him to open his own training facility in the future.
Recollecting his childhood in Fort Worth, he described pictures of himself as a three-year-old, shooting hoops on a kid-sized basketball net.
Mathis moved around a lot in his younger years: from Fort Worth to Lake Worth to eventually settling in Saginaw for middle school through high school. His extended time in the small city of Saginaw especially stood out to Mathis as a formative experience, as he watched the community grow with many different cultures and generations intermingled.
Mathis reported that his love of basketball was further fostered by his family, who all love sports, whether watching or playing. He said he is one of the shorter members of his family and smiled, remembering his family’s reaction to his passion for basketball:
“‘Really, you’re gonna play basketball?’” Mathis said, speaking his family’s words. “But it hasn’t stopped me since, so it’s been cool.”
He started playing organized basketball around the age of seven, and though his family did not have the financial resources to invest in extracurriculars, Mathis always found a way to play. He used the YMCA and other leagues to develop his early skills. The development paid off: once Mathis joined the highschool team he got into the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), which Mathis described as the “high school equivalent of a select team.”
Mathis cited his time at Chisholm Trail High School as especially helpful in developing fundamental aspects of the game. His coaches drove home that he should always strive to win, instilling in him a very competitive spirit which has served him well in his time at UD.
“I kind of found my drive in high school, of wanting to get better and knowing that I could progress in this sport and then obviously end up where I am now.”
Coach Jarred Samples, head coach for the men’s basketball team, was the main reason Mathis chose to come to UD.
“He came to some of my games and recruited me the most,” Mathis reported. “I think I had another school, maybe two [recruiting me] … and Coach Samples really put like his trust and interest into me and I honestly had no idea if I was going to play college basketball or not until he came into the picture … he allowed me to really grow and actually keep playing the game I love.”
Mathis got the chance to come to an open gym event on UD’s campus and got to play with the basketball team at the time. He felt immediate camaraderie with them and knew that UD was the place to be.
Before Samples introduced UD to Mathis, he hadn’t heard of the school. Now, as a senior, he reports that UD has surpassed all his expectations, especially in the basketball program.
“The coaches have let me grow into the player I am today, whether that’s getting past my comfort zone, becoming more confident … I wasn’t expecting that … They’ve really allowed me to grow and share my voice, so it’s been awesome.”
Luckily, the men’s basketball season had ended before the COVID-19 pandemic canceled spring sports last year. Over the break however, much of the team’s ability to train was affected, especially due to the lack of access to gyms and real basketball courts. Mathis reported his own experience of going outside on the concrete like he used to when he was younger, but reported some serious issues.
“I tried to not let it hold me back,” Mathis reported. “I was having to find different gyms to get into. If I couldn’t, I would go outside. Weight room wise, I was having to use my uncle’s old, run down weights, so it took a toll, but I mean, if you really want to get after it, you’ll find a way to do it.”
There are more current struggles that come with the coronavirus precautions for the basketball team’s practices as well. Mathis reported the most uncomfortable aspect is the sweat that condenses under the masks. He said that the team understood that the precautions were necessary and took care to abide by them.
“I think our guys know that if we want to have a season and really have a chance to win a conference championship, we’ll do whatever it takes.”
This team cohesion and adaptability was something Mathis focused on when describing the dynamic of the team and his own role in promoting those aspects. Mathis described each of his teammates as a brother to him.
“In practice, we’re all competitive, we all get after each other, but then we get off the court, and we’re all best friends.”
Due to the pandemic, the basketball team has been reduced to a shorter season this year, with only 14 games and a conference tournament on the schedule.
“With that type of opportunity, we have to make sure that every practice is great, every game we’re giving it our all. We can’t leave any regrets behind.”
Philip Ashton, another senior on the team, reinforces Mathis’ account of his passion both for the game and for the team.
“Dustin’s a natural leader. He always brings energy, and is always pushing for everyone to get better,” Ashton wrote. “Whether that’s finding the open man or creating space for his own shot, no moment is too big for him, and he’s gonna get it done.”
At the end of the interview, Mathis offered advice to his team, and to the university at large, in these unprecedented times.
“I think right now the most important thing I could say is … we just [need to] try to stick together through hard times right now … We shouldn’t take any days for granted really ‘cause, you know, we’re not promised tomorrow … Try to be as loving and open minded as possible.”