Some guys hang it up in the early 30’s and by age 38 are already totally situated in a new life after basketball while others may actually stay in basketball. Then again there are other guys that just can’t stop playing the game they love like a Derrick Allen or Chris Ensminger that played into their late 30’s and were still able to leave a lasting impression in the easyCredit BBL even when their muscles might have been aching a bit more than usual and other priorities like kids were gnawing at their responsibilities on the court. Another one of those rare players that played into his late 30’s was Virgil Matthews (191-PG-83, college: Montana). Except for his summer flings at home in leagues like the IBL where he played at home with the Olympia Reign for five summers from 2010-2014, he played his whole illustrious 14 year career in Germany with teams like KICKZ Muenchen Basket (Germany-2.Bundesliga), Schwelmer Baskets (Regionalliga), Ehingen (Pro A), Nuernberg (Pro A) and the Niners Chemnitz. In Chemnitz he found a second home playing six seasons. He is also one of those scarce players that had to pay his dues for many years first toiling in leagues like the Regionalliga and Pro B before making the next jump into the second Bundesliga Pro A where he belonged to the top point guards every season. But his steep ascent up the basketball ladder didn’t end there as he did reach the top of the mountain the first league easyCredit BBL at age 37 in 2020 helping Chemnitz remain in the BBL in his last season. Like many guys before him, he has decided to give his love to the game as well as to the Niners and is an assistant coach under Rodrigo Pastore. I remember joking with him the last three to four years about when he would retire, but he always was prepared to fire a reply back and always returned to playing. But in the summer of 2021, he knew it was time and it was a decision where he had no sleepless nights. ‘It wasn’t difficult at all, it was time. I played long enough and my body was definitely ready. It wasn’t the wear and tear of the BBL. It was just the wear and tear of practicing every day and all the years before adding up’, stressed Virgil Matthews. If someone had told him in the spring of 2006 when he was finishing at Montana (NCAA) that he would still be a professional player in 2021, he would of probably declared that person insane. Instead he was able to endure an illustrious professional career that brought him titles and just supreme joy of playing the game. Virgil Matthews was a real dinosaur that gave consistency a new meaning.
The American who was born in Spanaway, Washington on July 17, 1983 began his basketball career at Federal way high school. He then had to go a route that many Americans overseas have to take early on with balling in JUCO. This is a place where players really learn toughness simply because absolutely every player has something to prove and will go through a brick wall to beat you. He played at Centralia College and left a lasting impression and was rewarded with the NCAA ticket to the University Of Montana. He had a tough junior season averaging 3,5ppg, 2,0rpg and 1,8apg, but helped his team win the Big Sky Conference tournament. Everything came together in his senior year as he played 31 games averaging 10,1ppg, 4,6rpg, 4,0apg and 1,7spg while shooting a potent 49% from the field and 48% from down town. He once again helped his team win the Big Sky Conference for a second year in a row and was named MVP. Success and the kind of stats he had could have easily given him a BBL contract, but instead he had to begin in the second Bundesliga with KICKZ Muenchen Basket (Germany-2.Bundesliga). He showed quickly that he had no problems adjusting to the style overseas as he played 29 games averaging 18.0ppg, 6.1rpg, 5.2apg, 2.6spg, 2FGP: 57.3%, 3FGP: 31.8%, FT: 66.5%. Often after a stellar season like that a player will make the next step up, but for him he took a few steps backwards. He would hang around in semi-pro leagues in the States and played in the Regionalliga. It would take him three years before his career would get going again. ‘After my season in Munich my agent quit the game late in the summer while I was waiting for a job. I had some issues with the coach. I was a rookie it was just not the best ending to my season. I ended up getting surgery on my knee that fall which made it hard to play that next season. So then I just had to redeem myself working my way back up. Luckily Ralph Junge (Ehingen) found me 2 years later and he still remembered me from that Munich season’, stated Virgil Matthews. In 2008-2009 he was back in Germany, but took a step back playing in the Regionalliga with the Schwelmer Baskets. He was very fortunate then to paly for up and coming German head coach Raphael Wilder. ‘I really like how he kept things simple, he also encouraged us players to go and experience the culture and kind of experience more than basketball and enjoy the experience of being a professional player in Europe. It’s a special thing that not everyone gets to see’, remembered Virgil Matthews.
For some guys experiencing the early growing pains could have been enough to head back home and call it quits and get a normal 9-5 job. But Matthews who lists American Devin Uskowski as his toughest opponent in the Pro B decided to keep grinding in the lab and wait for the next opportunity. Waiting and sticking it out was the right decision as his next opportunity came with German Pro B team Ehingen and one can say that after that the rest is history. Right in his first season he helped Ehingen win the Pro B title and move up to the Pro A. In 2011 was the start of his 9 year Pro A career. In Ehingen he built that consistency that would carry over to the next chapter in his career with the Niners Chemnitz that began in 2014. One has to seriously wonder where his career would have gone had Ralph Junge not grabbed him in 2010 and brought him to Ehingen. ‘Ralph was a vital role in my development and he brought me in and gave me a chance after being a year out of playing. He also taught me so much about the German way and the systems. At the time he was the best youth program in Germany and he was ahead of his time as far as the youth movements that are happening today by the big clubs such as Berlin and Bayern. I learned a lot from him, I’m will always be grateful for that’, warned Virgil Matthews. In Ehingen he had that special role of being a mentor for all the young talent that played there in his four years. Being able to give his experience further was also very important in his development as being that hard nosed leader was later vital for the success in Chemnitz. He was fortunate not to play with a few great young talents, but numerous. ‘I mean there were so many. I’m just glad to have seen them all grow up and play on high levels and be successful individuals. Kevin Bright, Malik Mueller, Kenneth Ogbe, and Sid Marlon-Theis are the one that come to mind right away.
In 2014 the guard who lists Ajay Calvin Terrell Harris Chris Carter Ivan Elliot Dan Oppland as his best teammates of all-time began his most successful and productive time as he would play for the Niners Chemnitz for six seasons with the exception with a Pro A season in Nuernberg. He was instrumental with Rodrigo Pastore in the club reaching the playoffs every season except for his first season and winning the 2019 and 2020 regular season and Pro A in 2020. Even if he is retired, his stay in Chemnitz continues and he will always remember one of the finer parts to why his job had so much enjoyment there. ‘The fans here are great. Coming from Ehingen Chemnitz was a big city so that was also nice. I think one thing about the organization is that I was here to kind of grow with it. It’s cool when you can see the changes and the things you may have had influence in, or to see the youth players grow up. It’s a special kind of thing to have these opportunities’, said Virgil Matthews. He scored averaging in double figures in three of five Pro A seasons and was top three in assists in the league three times. One season he averaged 7,6apg and two other seasons 6,1apg. He finally reached the easyCredit BBL in 2020. In what would be his final season he played 28 games averaging 2,5ppg, 1,8rpg and 2,9apg. It was no secret that there was a big change and difference in skill level from the Pro A to BBL. He won’t forget what the biggest adjustment was. ‘Just the speed. The teams and players at the BBL level are so smart that they don’t need much time to recover from mistakes. At the Pro A level you can expose players a lot easier. In the BBL every player can play’, stated Virgil Matthews. I remember telling him time in and time out again the last years that he deserved to have reached the BBL years ago. Not reaching the BBL earlier never seemed to bother him. ‘It wasn’t meant to be things happen the way they are supposed to sometimes. I’ve had so many good teammates and seen so many players develop and move on it is nice to have a little continuity. I played in college I’ve played against high level guys very often, so I never doubted my abilities even if I never got a chance’, stressed Virgil Matthews. It isn’t strange that he has a lot of love for his ex teammate Chris Carter. He is another one of those players that should have a permanent pass for the easyCredit BBL, but currently is balling in the Pro A with Rostock. ‘Chris still has time and he will get another opportunity. He’s a great leader and a hard worker. Fondest memory of him as a player was the double pump 3 pointer to win the Hagen game 2 years ago. He’s one of my good friends and I’m sure we’ll continue to also make crazy off the court memories too’, added Virgil Matthews.
The Washington native who lists ex NBA player Troy Caupain as his most difficult opponent last season and Aubrey Reese as his toughest foe in the Pro A who gave him the easiest 25 points that he has ever seen now commences on a new challenge in his life as an assistant coach for Rodrigo Pastore. It was a no brainer for him to remain in Chemnitz and work and learn from such a talented and knowledgeable coach like Pastore. It will be interesting to see how he develops as a coach in the next years. There are a few aspects to coaching that is most appealing to him. ‘ I love the thinking. I’m really into the X’s and O’s part of basketball and the relationships you develop while you work this job’, expressed Virgil Matthews. His most important duties is being at practices, doing video work and helping giving input to players during the transfer period. It will be interesting to see how this year’s Chemnitz teams does on the court. One player who should profit very much under Matthews is point guard Nelson Weidemann. His development has been solid, but not fast. He continues to have gained experience in Munich, Bamberg and Goettingen and this season should easily make another step up with the Niners. ‘Nelson is really talented, I remember when I saw him play against the NBBL team while I was there, he had a really good game. I think he will have a good chance to make that next step with us, I will do my best to help him in whatever ways I can’, warned Virgil Matthews.
Even if the ex Ehingen guard who last saw the movie A Quiet Place 2 has his most focus on the court and trying to help the players best, I’m sure every now and then, he might think back to his career and try to aid players with what he learned. He played more than 400 professional games and there are many games that he can still picture in his mind today. ‘ I remember making a 3 and having a great game against Karlsruhe in Pro A, but I mainly remember it because it was the night the Seahawks won the Super Bowl. Our last game before Covid was also one that stands out double overtime and DJ’s three to send it to overtime one of the craziest games I’ve been a part of Lastly, beating Munich was great, I played awful but it was a great moment for the club’, remembered Virgil Matthews. I will always remember Virgil Matthews as being a floor general who played for ages and gave the word consistency a new meaning. It also refreshing to know that he has his memories over our working relationship and seemingly unending interviews. ‘I will remember your work as someone who tried to get people to know players better and always had interest in the game and helped keep German basketball in the light’, stressed Virgil Matthews. Last but not least, the hardcore Niners fans won’t forget Virgil Matthews either. He hopes fans will remember him like this. ‘Just as a smart player who had fun and enjoyed what he was doing and enjoyed the experience’, said Virgil Matthews. His smartness and playmaking led the Niners club too a lot of success. That success should carry on as he now continues to let his legacy grow as a coach at the professional level.