Matlock has defenses’ attention, wants more

Posted: February 4, 2018 at 1 a.m.

Omaha’s Garrett Matlock (13) drops in a layup Tuesday against Decatur in Decatur.
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Omaha’s Garrett Matlock (13) drops in a layup Tuesday against Decatur in Decatur.

OMAHA — Garrett Matlock’s talents on the basketball court have earned him plenty of attention recently, but it’s not the kind he’d rather see.

Omaha’s 6-foot-6 senior post wants to be the recipient of visits and telephone calls from college coaches who could give him the opportunity to extend his playing career. Instead, it is the Eagles’ opponents who have made Matlock their focus.

Any time Matlock is on the floor, he is guaranteed to have at least one player eyeing his every move and constantly chasing him. It’s the result of the gadget defenses teams have resorted to using to stop Omaha’s leading scorer.

“It’s a little different having somebody hang on to you the whole game,” Matlock said. “You sort of get used to it after a while. It kind of gets under your skin to not be able to get open and catch the ball, and things like that. It hasn’t become too bad because usually, the other guys make some shots, so they can’t get away from guarding just me too long.”

Omaha coach Rocky Dodson said opponents have recently started employing gimmick defenses in order to stop Matlock, who averages 20 points and 9.5 rebounds per game and has recorded 16 double-doubles and even some triple-doubles this season. Teams have resorted to the box-and-one or the diamond-and-one, with the one person following Matlock’s every move, and others used a 1-3-1 zone with a chaser or a modified man defense in hopes of slowing Matlock down.

During a 2A/1A District 1 game Monday night at Kingston, he found two and sometimes three defenders around him any time he caught the ball in the post. Matlock, however, still finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds and found ways to get his teammates move involved by handing out five assists or being a decoy at times during the Eagles’ 69-60 victory — their 30th of the season — and he scored 35 points against Kingston during Friday’s rematch in Omaha.

“He’s carrying another player with him like a jacket,” Dodson said. “They literally hang on to him everywhere he goes, so he has to really work hard just to get open. When he does catch the ball, he practically has the entire team defending him. Last year, Garrett was our leading assist man, and he’s up there right now.

“He’s so unselfish, and that’s why his teammates enjoy having him as a player. He’ll give it right back to them, and that’s one of the reasons why we’ve been so successful because we’re not one-dimensional. My wife heard some kids from an opposing school — little kids — that probably should have been cheering against Omaha, but they were cheering for him.”

Matlock’s game isn’t one-dimensional, either. He realized during the offseason that teams would try to pack it inside when he was there, so he added 20 pounds to his frame to handle the physicality. He also worked on his outside shooting enough to where Dodson said he might be the team’s most accurate 3-point shooter this season, and he can handle the ball outside.

That kind of improvement will allow him to play either forward position in the college ranks, but there’s just one problem — Matlock isn’t getting much attention, despite his success. His only current offer is from North Arkansas College in nearby Harrison, and he has seen limited interest from John Brown and Lyon College, as well as some NAIA teams and a few NCAA Division II schools.

“We’re still looking for some more offers,” Dodson said. “A kid coming from a Class A school — it is what it is. We live in north-central Arkansas, and we don’t get a lot of that exposure that we like to get. He’s played summer ball on a team that won a national tournament, but his name is just getting out there.

“It’s going to be interesting to see where this goes, honestly. I don’t think there’s a kid around that deserves it more than he does. He’s had some good dunks that I’ve put on Facebook and Twitter, and I think somebody on Twitter posted that you won’t see a better dunk in Class A basketball. I’ll venture to say you won’t see a better one in 1A through 7A.”

In the meantime, Matlock focuses on the things he can handle. One of those things is helping Omaha win as many games as possible and win a state championship and being the leader the Eagles need to accomplish such a feat.

“I think the state championship is always the end goal,” Matlock said. “Hopefully we can get there. Now I just want to win district and think of the conference tournament — just one step at a time.

“Coach always has a saying: sophomores want to play, juniors want to score and seniors want to win. I think I’ve filled that pretty well. I just want to win games.”

At a glance

GARRETT MATLOCK

SCHOOL Omaha

CLASS Senior

HEIGHT 6-6

WEIGHT 200

NOTABLE Averages 20 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists this season, with 16 double-doubles and some triple-doubles. … Earned all-conference, all-state and all-state tournament status last season. … Scored a season-high 37 points against Lincoln during the Green Forest Invitational and had a season-high 16 rebounds against Kingston during the NorthArk Invitational. … Has a 4.0 grade point average and has aspirations of becoming a dentist.