CLODFELTER: Mathew doing his best in a tough situation in Reo

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By Zane Clodfelter, Sports editor

Last week I had the opportunity to meet South Spencer’s new girls basketball coach, Brent Mathew.

He stopped by our office to formally introduce himself, since I conducted a phone interview with him when covering his hiring a little over a month ago.

We had a nice conversation and he detailed the steps he has already taken since he replaced Jason Mayes, who went 17-99 in five seasons.

Mathew admitted the timing of his takeover wasn’t ideal, but he sees progress nevertheless.

“(Assistant coach) David Hall and I got hired May 14, which is a little late to start a spring program, which we’re allowed to do,” Mathew said. “At the end of May and all through the month of June, we’ve worked really hard on the fundamental aspects of basketball.”

Part of that work included a team camp at Transylvania University in Lexington, Ky., where the Rebels played a handful of scrimmages.

The Rebels also played Muhlenberg County and Daviess County in summer scrimmages.

Mathew said his team went a combined 3-7 at the team camp and other summer games, but when you consider where this program has been, there are positives to be had.

Success breeds more success, and South Spencer’s winning three games this summer will help with confidence.

You could tell Matthew was invested in this turnaround and the community should have noticed it as well.

He has held meetings with parents, he has invited former middle school basketball players who no longer play to open gyms, and he’s trying to balance out a roster that doesn’t include a lot of sophomores or juniors.

The track record is there - this isn’t a young coach coming into a situation way over his head. This is a veteran coach trying to put his winning touch on a team that is near being an afterthought.

Mathew preached conditioning and agility in our conversation - he wants his team to be athletic. He is setting up programs and opening the door for anyone who might be considering trying out for the team.

He wants South Spencer to have a freshman, JV and varsity team. He wants a deep roster and the ability to have his athletes play against their peers as opposed to being forced to play a level higher at times.

What he’s asking isn’t outrageous. South Spencer needs three high school teams. If you’re the Rebels, you shouldn’t want your freshmen potentially playing sophomores and juniors in JV. At this point, confidence is key and you’ll find more of it by playing peers.

Mathew is all in, I believe it, but he can’t do it alone.

In the past, I’ve written about how small schools like South Spencer, and Heritage Hills to an extent, need multiple sport athletes. Each school has a nice core of athletes but if most of them specialize in a particular sport, other sports will suffer as a result.

I’ve thought for years about South Spencer’s different situations in two girls sports, basketball and softball. One hasn’t won more than five games in over a decade while the other has a couple trips to the state finals in that span - and a 2014 state championship.

Wouldn’t it be great if more of those softball players went out for basketball too? Or how about the girls soccer team under Katie Pounds, gradually getting better - it would be nice to see more soccer athletes try basketball too.

While the sports are different, the skills in softball or soccer would translate in some way or another to the basketball court. Look at South Spencer boys basketball - soccer players Kipper Johnson and Colin Stewart came out and contributed this past season.

I’m hopeful Mathew will see an influx of numbers that he is desperately seeking since he is invested at this job. This is a process and he knows the challenges that await, but if you can carry depth through that difficult process it is almost guaranteed to pay dividends down the road.

It will be interesting how things shake out for Mathew as the school year begins. He wants you to know if you didn’t already that basketball is a year-round sport, as are his efforts in turning things around in Reo.