Anthony Mathis’ career as a UNM Lobo appears to be over, after all.
The 6-foot-3 guard from West Linn, Ore., who led the Lobos in scoring (14.4 points per game) this past season has entered his name into the NCAA transfer portal, alerting coaches around the country and making public his intention to leave the Lobos and play elsewhere.
He announced the news Monday morning via Twitter, writing: “Lobo nation, coaches, teammates. I am truly thankful for everything you guys have done for me as a player, but even more as a person. I’ve learned so much during my time in Albuquerque and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. But I have decided to put my name in the transfer portal and use my last year of eligibility as a grad transfer. You guys will always have a special place in my heart, and I cannot thank you guys enough.”
You guys mean more to me then you will ever know. Thank you from the bottom of my heart 🐺🤘🏽 pic.twitter.com/Fc9Z6XTp35
— Anthony Mathis (@mathis290) June 3, 2019
It is unclear where Mathis plays, but since he has graduated, as long as he can be accepted into a graduate school program at another university, he can be immediately eligible to play there as a graduate transfer rather than sitting out a season like the NCAA usually requires of its transfers.
Mathis’ best friend since high school is Payton Pritchard, the star point guard at Oregon, their home state. Pritchard last week withdrew his name from consideration from this year’s NBA Draft and announced he would return for his final season at Oregon, which is where former Lobo Elijah Brown played as a graduate transfer two seasons ago after leaving UNM.
“Fitting in with Payton again and having grown up with him, I really think that’s something I want to do – end it with Payton,” Mathis told the Portland Orgonian on Monday. “We’ve always talked about playing together again. So, that’s what I hope would happen. I would love to play with coach (Dana) Altman.”
The Journal was alerted in April, the day of the NCAA’s decision, that transferring back home to Oregon would be something that intrigued Mathis for his final season and has included in its reporting the possibility of a graduate transfer.
The decision now to enter his name in the transfer portal for one of the best 3-point shooters in UNM history is the next in an unexpected whirlwind of emotions since the end of the season for Mathis and Lobo fans, who were given an unexpected offseason jolt of excitement in April when the NCAA announced the surprise decision to grant him an additional season of eligibility when very few people even knew he was trying to get one after what was thought to be his senior, and final, year of eligibility in college this past season with the Lobos.
But starting in January, UNM began putting together an appeal on his behalf that the 64 minutes he played as a sophomore under the tumultuous final season under former head coach Craig Neal shouldn’t have counted toward the four seasons the NCAA allows players to participate in during their collegiate careers.
Neither UNM nor Mathis will discuss the details of that appeal despite records requests from the Journal, but letters written on Mathis’ behalf came from multiple sources around the team during the 2016-17 season that led the NCAA to believe the culture and environment around the program, and with Mathis’ in particular, warranted his getting another season to play basketball.
At the end of that season, Neal was fired. Eight players with eligibility remaining requested a transfer between the end of the 2016-17 season and the start of the 2017-18 season, the first under Paul Weir. Of those eight, Sam Logwood and Mathis ended up staying and playing for Weir after all.
That decision was one both Weir and Mathis spoke in glowing terms about this past season, Mathis saying he felt Weir believed in him when other teams did not and gave him the opportunity to play he didn’t feel he was given under Neal.
Weir said they took a chance on each other and it helped lay the foundation for his first two seasons as the Lobos coach.
It is unclear how long Mathis has been contemplating the decision to transfer or if he had his mind made up from the time the decision came in to give him an additional season to play.
Since the decision, Mathis was careful to not often say specifically he would be playing for UNM, just that he was extremely grateful for UNM for helping him get the appeal and that he looked forward to getting another season to play, though he did often use “we” when asked questions about next season’s Lobos.
On May 13, the first time Mathis was allowed to talk to the media after the April 17 ruling by the NCAA, Mathis talked about the season he hopes to have ahead. When he was specifically asked by the Journal if that meant he intended that season to be played at UNM, his answer was “I’m here right now, so, yeah.”
The news release UNM sent to media on April 17 announcing the NCAA’s decision, which was reviewed by UNM staff before release, did attribute to Mathis the following quote: “This is the best news I have ever heard. To be able to come back and truly have a full career here is absolutely a dream come true.”
But also posted on the same day to his social media accounts was a tweet that did not say he would play his graduate season at UNM.
He tweeted: “I’m incredibly blessed and fortunate to be able to play another year of college basketball and continue my academic journey. I look forward to getting back on the court and starting graduate school.”
As for how this affects the Lobos roster, it depends on how one looks at it. Obviously losing the team’s leading scorer and elite 3-point shooter will hurt, but the team’s defense has struggled mightily in man defense against quick guards in recent seasons, a weakness in Mathis’ game.
More specifically, his transfer gets UNM closer to the NCAA maximum 13 scholarships for the coming season.
UNM is still over the limit by two if all recruited players become academically eligible this summer, but at least one player could decide to become a walk-on and take advantage of an academic scholarship available to him. Still, at best, UNM is over at least one scholarship if all recruits qualify and would need at least one more player to transfer from the team this summer, something most teams now expect from year to year as the average number of transfers per NCAA Division I team is between two and three per offseason, but UNM hadn’t had one until Mathis this week.
Here is a look at UNM’s potential roster for the coming 2019-20 season:
2019-20 UNM Lobo roster
*Walk-on. Does not count toward scholarship limit.
- Emmanuel Andrew