Gonzaga's Jordan Mathews takes alternate route to NBA, New Orlea - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Gonzaga's Jordan Mathews takes alternate route to NBA, New Orleans Pelicans

New Orleans' Summer League begins on July 7 New Orleans' Summer League begins on July 7

Jordan Mathews is walking in the footsteps of former Gonzaga teammate Kyle Wiltjer, following the Houston Rocket's path to the NBA. After going undrafted in the 2017 NBA Draft, Mathews drew attention from three NBA teams about possibly playing for their Summer League team and ultimately chose the New Orleans Pelicans.

"When my agent called me, he said we have three options: Houston, Memphis or New Orleans," Mathews said. "I thought New Orleans was the perfect fit."
Fortunately for Mathews, the three-point shot is becoming even more prevalent in today's NBA game, making the sharpshooter the ideal fit to space the floor just as he did in college at Cal and Gonzaga.  Mathews made 286 three-point shots during his collegiate career, most notably the game-winner against West Virginia in the Sweet 16.

"I think its a big time opportunity, because it's a team (New Orleans) that needs shooters," Mathews said. "It's turning into a three-point shooting league, with a lot of versatile guards and I think I fit the mold of that."

In his one season at Gonzaga, Mathews familiarized himself with playing with two of the nation's premiere 7-footers in Przemek Karnowski and Zach Collins.  Now, if he's able to land a roster spot out of the NBA Summer League, he could find himself being paired up with two of the NBA's dominant post players, Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins.  Together, Davis and Cousins averaged 52.4 points and 24.2 rebounds per game, giving the NBA its most potent post combo since David Robinson and Tim Duncan with the San Antonio Spurs from 1997-2003.

Mathews found a way to complement two big men at Gonzaga, and now he hopes to forge a similar on-court dynamic with Davis and Cousins in the NBA.

"They (Pelicans) have the best power forward and center combo in the league," Matthews said. "If I end up making the roster, with teams focusing on them (Davis and Cousins), I'll get open shots."

After three seasons as a go-to scorer at Cal, Mathews made sacrifices and adapted his game playing second-fiddle to Nigel Williams-Goss (16.8 PPG) and Karnowski (12.2 PPG).  His 10.6 points per game last season was his second-lowest during his collegiate career, but he has no problem taking a backseat to stars, whether it's in the NCAA or NBA.

"I think going to Gonzaga and having to adapt to a different role really helped me because that's what I'll have to do this upcoming year."

Mathews isn't the only Gonzaga player taking the undrafted free agent route to the NBA. Last season, Gonzaga star Kyle Wiltjer went undrafted and signed with the Houston Rockets, where he played for their D-League team, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.  The move allowed Wiltjer to pick the team that was the best fit, and he has flourished in the D-League and received opportunities to play in the NBA. Mathews said he talked with Wiltjer about the expectations of playing at the next level.

"He (Wiltjer) told me, when it comes to training camp, fight for your life and have the confidence that your the best shooter in the gym, those two things will take you a long way." 

The Pelicans' Summer League games begin on July 7 on the campus of the University of Nevada Las Vegas.

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