By Don Lund
Last week I talked about Jordan Stoermer growing up as a teammate and an opponent of Matt Gatens.
This week it’s Matt’s turn.
Matt Gatens was born to be a Hawkeye His dad, Mike, went to City High like Matt and played on the Hawkeye team. He lettered in 1974-76. Matt’s mom was a former Hawkeye cheerleader.
Matt has good memories of Jordan and himself teaming up in the early years and playing well.
“We had a ton of success,” said Matt. “We dominated a lot of teams. It was a lot of fun. Jordan was a good player, a smart player and we had a good team.”
They played together in the summers until the eighth grade and started playing against each other during school in seventh grade.
“We had a lot of battles in high school,” said Matt. “He got the best of me until my senior year. I hadn’t beaten West High, then we beat them three times that year. We had some great games and it was a lot of fun to go against them.”
The City High Little Hawks won the state championship Matt’s senior year and Matt was named the captain of the state tournament All-Tournament team.
“It was incredible,” Matt recalls. “It was some of my fondest memories in basketball after three years of struggling. Just to be able to do it with a group of guys we did, it was a lot of fun. We still stay in touch and are good friends.”
In the championship game, Matt scored 24 points including 13-13 from the free throw line.
Matt was named “Mr. Basketball” and Gatorade Player of the Year after the season. He was also first team all-state his junior and senior year.
Matt was also a pretty good golfer, playing four years on the City High golf team. He went to state his junior year.
“To be able to get away and play some golf is a good release but at the same time it tests your mental toughness,” said Matt.
You would think that recruiters would be knocking down Matt’s door trying to persuade him to come to their school to play basketball, but Matt had already committed to play for Steve Alford, who was the Iowa coach, in ninth grade.
Coach Alford bolted to New Mexico to become the Lobos’ new coach before Matt could shoot a basket for the Hawks.
“It was really rough at first,” said Matt. “I had become really close with those guys (the coaches) but things happen, it’s a business and they had to move on and I had to get used to a new coach. You just have to move on and roll with the punches and I still played for Iowa. That’s what I wanted.”
Todd Lickliter came in with high expectations but it didn’t work out and he was gone after three years.
“It was a lot of fun playing as a freshman,” said Matt. “I’ve been waiting a long time to do that, but not winning games was rough. We’re changing things around and we’re working hard this summer and I think we can have success my last year.”
Matt started in all 32 games his freshman year and averaged 10.8 points. He also set an all-time Iowa freshman record by shooting .904 from the free throw line. Matt was named to the Big Ten Conference All-Freshman team while the Hawks finished 15-17 that season.
As a sophomore Matt averaged 12.3 per game, was named honorable mention All-Big Ten and Iowa finished 10-22.
Todd Lickliter was out, Fran McCaffery was in.
Last year, Matt led the team in scoring (12.6), steals (1.3) and was second in assists (1.8).
The Hawks finished 11-20 including big wins over UNI, Michigan State and Purdue.
Jordan and Matt matched up again last year as teammates and went against each other in practice.
“He did a great job leading the scout team,” said Matt about Jordan. “He’s smart and he knows a lot about the complex offenses in the Big Ten and those guys do a real good job of learning it quick. I don’t know if Jordan is going to be playing or not this year, but I hope he can come back, it would be great.”
Matt is excited with the four newcomers and thinks this team has a chance to be successful.
Randy Larson, the director of the Prime Time League, has known both Jordan and Matt since they were in grade school and likes what they bring to the game.
“One of the biggest surprises for me is people not understanding how good Jordan is,” said Randy. “To me, he is a high division one level basketball player. He can play both guard positions, he guards the heck out of you and he’s a very good shooter. He never says a word, he just sticks his nose in there and plays tough. I just love the way he plays, with a lot of determination.”
Randy not only knows Matt very well but has played golf with Matt and his dad Mike (Matt usually wins).
“What can you say about Matt?” said Randy. “I’ve always said he combines four things that you never see in one person on the basketball court; he’s a great shooter, he’s a great scorer, he plays the game the right way and he wants to kill you every play. He’s very mature, responsible and a man that plays with integrity. I think he’s my favorite basketball player I’ve seen in the 25 years that I’ve done this.”
Jordan and Matt… two homegrown Hawkeyes that were opponents, teammates, good players and good students... it doesn’t get much better than that.