It started with a dream.
Now it has become a reality.
After years of hard work, fueled by the goal of earning an NCAA Division I scholarship, Dallastown High School rising senior Aniya Matthews made things official on Friday.
After consulting with her parents and basketball coaches, the 6-foot, 3-inch standout announced her verbal commitment to play for Temple University in Philadelphia.
“What really drew me to Temple was the connection that I had with all the coaches,” Matthews said. “I’m a big person on making connections and building relationships and I just felt that they were the ones that were most invested in me.”
Early this summer, Matthews narrowed her search to four schools — Temple, Lafayette, St. Joe’s and James Madison.
“The coaches at Temple believe in me the most,” she said. “And I was comfortable with them. I have not only a great relationship with the head coach (Tonya Cardoza), but also the assistant coaches and some of the players, which was a big thing for me.”
Temple finished 11-19 last season, including a 7-9 mark in the American Athletic Conference.
Coach supports her decision: Jay Rexroth, who is Matthews' coach at Dallastown, wholeheartedly endorsed her decision.
“I was just super-impressed with the way Aniya handled the whole recruiting process,” Rexroth said. “She showed that she’s mature beyond her years in the way she dealt with the college coaches. I know she narrowed (her choices) down to a few, but obviously she felt that Temple was the best fit for her and I think that she made a great decision.”
Matthews, who led the Wildcats in scoring at 9.9 points per game as a junior, is the second D-I recruit for Rexroth over the past two years at Dallastown. Sam Miller, who graduated this past spring, is headed to Saint Francis (Pennsylvania) this fall.
In addition to Miller, Rexroth lost a several key pieces from Dallastown's York-Adams League title team that finished 25-4. Still, having a player the caliber of Matthews returning is a good place for Rexroth to start building his 2019-2020 team.
“Aniya has worked really hard to get better,” Rexroth said. “And even at 6-3, she can pretty much guard anyone at any position on the floor. In fact, this summer during summer league, we had her guard a couple of point guards that are being highly recruited at the D-II and D-I levels and she just showed that she’s super-athletic and she’s made a full commitment to the defensive side of the floor.”
Looking to be more of a leader at Dallastown: While Matthews’ on-court performance has taken a step forward this summer, the Temple recruit sounded more excited about helping out in a few other areas with the Wildcats next season.
“I know that our team lost a lot of really good players from last year’s team,” Matthews said. “So I need to show more offensively and I know my defense has always been one of the stronger aspects of my game.
“But I really know I need to show more of my leadership part. Last year, I wasn’t quiet, but I kind of let the seniors on the team do more of the talking, but I feel that this year, now that I am a senior and that I am one of the leaders, that I need to step up in that way as well.”
Rexroth is certainly looking forward to that, too.
“She’s a great kid,” he said. “But she’s a little quiet and maybe a little reserved at times, but she demonstrated through this process that she can handle it. It’s a lot of pressure for kids to go through."
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.