For as long as he can remember, the people closest to Malcom Mathews have called him by different names.
“In middle school, they called me ‘Too Tall’ because I was the tallest one in the school,” Mathews recalled earlier this season. “When I started AAU basketball, they called me ‘Flocka’ because they said I looked like (rapper) Waka Flocka Flame.”
Now, people can call Mathews something else: the 2011-12 Carolina Weekly Newspaper Group South Charlotte Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
The 6-foot-9 South Mecklenburg High junior center was a central reason the Sabres won their first conference championship in nine seasons, as he averaged 12.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and a state-leading 7.5 blocked shots per game.
Mathews’ interior dominance helped the Sabres improve from a 12-16 record last year to 23-6 this season.
But other aspects of Mathews’ game sometimes got overlooked because of his gaudy blocked shot total. For instance, he also averaged two assists per game.
“Malcom might be one of the smartest basketball players around, in that he (had) the least amount of turnovers for us,” Sabres coach John Fitch said. “He makes very smart passes, and he’s very intuitive about the game.”
Mathews’ dad, Malcom Sr., was a standout basketball player in his native Pittsburgh, Pa., and his uncle, Ron Carter, played collegiately at Virginia Military and later in the NBA for the Los Angeles Lakers and Indiana Pacers. Mathews was recruited this season by programs such as Appalachian State and the Charlotte 49ers, but that list could grow soon.
“That would be cool,” he said. “I think there’s a lot I can accomplish.”