Getting the scoop on high school recruits can be a bit tough at times. For players that aren’t widely making the AAU circuit, and don’t reside in your home state, all you have to go off of are some YouTube highlight reels, generally showcasing a player’s ability to dunk and nothing more.
That is exactly what happened when the Zags offered 7’4 center Matt Van Komen out of Utah. The first response from a lot of people: whoa he is tall. The second response from a lot of people: is he any good? The third response from a lot of people: I have no idea.
Luckily, Craig Tucker, an assistant varsity coach at Pleasant Grove High School who focuses on the shooting portion of the program, has been working with Matt for a couple of years, and he was able to give gleam some insight into the raw prospect.
For starters, Van Komen is exactly that: raw. He has been tall his entire life, breaching the seven foot mark a few years ago. Despite his clear height advantage for much of his life, his parents didn’t force him into basketball, and he didn’t start playing basketball until junior high.
This theoretical late bloom into basketball means that despite the raw talent and the gift of being so tall, Van Komen has some work to do in a couple of years to truly realize his potential.
“He needs to have a couple of go-to moves,” says Tucker. “He has a lot of different stuff, and he is constantly experimenting with what is working and what isn’t working. He’ll find that thing that works. Especially at 7’4, no one can block a right hand hook shot over his left shoulder.”
When Van Komen started working with the high school program, he hardly even jumped. He had been able to dunk since seventh grade, and could consistently dunk over everyone without having to jump. Tucker said he really didn’t know what to do with his body and lacked coordination.
“Matt is a quiet kid individually. He is starting to get out of his shell--he is only 16-years-old after all. He is starting to find out who he is as a person, and he is becoming more of a leader in the program.”
The development in the two short years has been readily apparent. Van Komen didn’t play much varsity as a freshman because he wasn’t ready. As a sophomore, he was first-team all-state, was first-team for the state tournament, and he led the state in both rebounding and blocks.
“He is still learning his post moves,” says Tucker. “He used to be a little uncomfortable more than 10 feet from the hoop. He has can shoot the ball decently, so he has started to face up and shoot over the guy. He has the ability to shoot the ball.”
As to be expected, the biggest issue with Van Komen is exactly what makes him such a tantalizing prospect: his height. As one can imagine quite easily, it is rather hard to keep the weight on a young kid who has grown so rapidly. Tucker says Van Komen has put on 25 pounds since the end of the sophomore season, and as he bulks up, he will be an even more effective player.
“He has always had great feet and great hands, and that is the key for a big guy to be successful,” says Tucker.
It will be exciting to watch Van Komen develop over the next couple of years. With that development, you can also expect other programs to come sniffing. Gonzaga is the second offer for Van Komen, alongside Baylor. As expected, Utah has been all over Van Komen since before the dawn of time, but hasn’t officially offered him yet. That will change eventually.