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Dominican power forward commits to play for Lobos

Bayron Matos, a 6-foot-9 power forward from the Dominican Republic, gave a verbal commitment Saturday to play for the UNM Lobos as part of the 2020 recruiting class. (Photo via Bayron Matos’ Twitter Page)

Bayron Matos is a long way from his Los Mina, Dominican Republic, home where he is one of seven children.

So, two things were important to the 6-foot-9, 240-pound power forward when choosing where he wanted to play his college basketball.

“It had to be like a family for me,” Matos told the Journal on Saturday night. “And having a strong Spanish culture was very important to me.”

Albuquerque checked the latter box for Matos after a quick Google search. But the family part wasn’t a done deal until he paid a visit this weekend on an official recruiting trip to the University of New Mexico. That was where he met Lobo players and the entire UNM coaching staff, not just head coach Paul Weir and assistant Brandon Mason, who had led the recruiting efforts.

“These guys were great to me and I could tell right away that this is the place for me,” Matos said Saturday night, not long after announcing on social media he is “150% committed” to play for the Lobos.

He is the first player to commit to UNM as part of the 2020 recruiting class and also happens to be one of the more coveted recruits out of high school to pick the Lobos in years.

Matos, a senior at Hamilton Heights Christian Academy in Chattanooga, Tennessee, picked the Lobos over more than a dozen other scholarship offers, including such Power Six basketball programs as West Virginia, TCU, Virginia Tech, Auburn, Florida, Illinois and Texas Tech, according to recruiting sites like 247Sports.com, Rivals.com and ESPN.com.

Matos was originally committed to the SEC’s Mississippi State before re-opening his recruitment in August when MSU was placed on NCAA probation.

The commitment to UNM, however, “is for sure. I will sign on the first day (of the early signing period) in November,” Matos said.

High school seniors are allowed to sign their National Letters of Intent no sooner than Nov. 13 of their senior season. Coaches at UNM are not allowed to comment on recruits until they sign.

“I want to be a leader,” Matos said. “When I get here (as a player) and in getting some other (recruits) here now that I’m coming.”

Matos said he’s well aware of the strenuous conditioning and demands the Lobos program will demand of him playing for Weir. “They even have you run if you miss a dunk,” Matos added.

Asked if missing dunks should be a concern for the physically dominating post player, Matos fired back quickly with in his thick accent, “Nobody’s going to have to worry about that with me.”

He added he plans to be a starter for the Lobos from his first season on, though doesn’t expect that to be handed to him.

The opportunity in the Lobos’ front court certainly looks to be there starting in the 2020-21 season, when Matos will begin his college career. The Lobos’ front court this season includes two seniors — Carlton Bragg and Corey Manigault — who are expected to exhaust their eligibility this season and have their scholarships open up.

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