Charlotte basketball's Jhery Matos has only been with the team for one year but has provided a little bit of everything for the 49ers. Matos, who hails from the Dominican Republic, joined the team this offseason after playing the past two seasons with the Dayton Flyers.
Matos has started every game this season and is fourth on the team scoring, averaging 8.3 points per game on 42.3% shooting. Matos is also third on the team in rebounds at 4.3 per game.
Head Coach Ron Sanchez spoke highly of the veteran.
"He is a mature guy who has been around the block a couple of times," said Sanchez in a weekly press conference before the canceled UTSA series. "He is a guy who is here for a reason. He has done a great job taking care of the basketball."
We see Jhery on the court, but what is he like off it? Matos sat down with the Niner Times so we could get to know the real him.
Bryson Foster: You didn't get much time to prepare for this season, but how do you think you've adapted so far?
Jhery Matos: Covid has made it hard when it came to our final times working out. I feel like the coaches did a great job creating zoom meetings and all that stuff, and we watched a lot of films. I think that helped us get ready mentally before the season started, so we had the time to prepare physically. We went into the season not far behind.
BF: You have one more game in any college arena you've already played in; where would you pick?
JM: I would love to get to play at the UD arena at the University of Dayton.
BF: How have you passed down your knowledge to the younger players?
JM: Communicating. They already know where I'm coming from, and they know what I've been doing, so I feel it's like being able to communicate and be able to listen and just translate. The best way for me to tell the young guys what they need to do better is showing them. When I get on the court, they can just see how it works. I feel like the best way for me to communicate and follow through with my words is through my actions.
BF: What has been your favorite part about the city of Charlotte so far?
JM: I haven't been able to explore the city really well because of the pandemic. We had to stay in our house, and we weren't allowed to hang out with a lot of people or go to a lot of places because of COVID contact tracing, but I feel like the variety of food that we have here is something that I've been able to enjoy. I have been able to find many good restaurants with Spanish food, which I was looking forward to.
BF: Which teammate has helped you get acclimated to your new team the most?
JM: Overall, the majority of them, but I would say Jahmir is one of the guys that I hang out with the most on the team. Marvin Cannon, which is my roommate, who's a transfer from Washington State. We have Milos, which is one of the international guys. I feel the closest to him [Milos Supica] because we come from different backgrounds and have shared different cultures, and that's something that really made us bond. I feel like everybody here has welcomed me with open arms, and I'm just happy to be here with these guys and play the game that we love.
BF: Playing at Dayton, what was it like having current New York Knick Obi Toppin as your teammate?
JM: It was a cool experience, but at the same time, it was normal because he is just a regular guy. Even though we knew how good Obi was, he never went out of his character just because he was a good player. I feel like Obi made it easier to go through tough times, and because of that, we were winning a lot. But he was just fun to be around, and he was just like a little kid. Obi was doing what he loved and enjoyed the game. We all bonded, and we hung out together a lot. I think that was one of the parts that really helped us to be the team that we were.
BF: Who is the funniest teammate on the team?
JM: The funniest teammate has to be between Anzac Rissesto and Marvin Cannon. Marvin is a goofball who always brings smiles to our faces. I can't really tell you any specific examples because they are constantly making us laugh.
BF: Would you rather have a slam dunk or hit a three?
JM: Right now, I would say hitting a three because that's part of my role on the team, so I know I will be able to do that. I would rather hit a three to win a game or go up with a few seconds left.
BF: How important has Coach Ron Sanchez been to you in just one year?
JM: Coach Sanchez has been great. We have a connection because he is also from the Dominican Republic, and he coached the Dominican national team at some point. Even though I didn't get to work with him personally when I played on the Dominican national team, I knew about him. I was really looking forward to playing for him when I decided to come here. He's been great, and he knows a lot about the game, and because of our background, it's been a lot easier for me to understand and do what he wants me to do to become a better basketball player. It's a lot easier for him to communicate with me because of our background and our sharing of the same culture. It has been a really good experience for me.
BF: What is your go-to genre of music or artist to listen to before a game?
JM: I'm very open-minded when it comes to music, but mostly I listen to a lot of Spanish music. Many Dominican rappers you guys probably don't know about, but I would say the artist that I listen to the most has to be Bad Bunny. Bad Bunny gets me hyped up and ready for the game.
BF: Who has been the most influential person in your life?
JM: I would say my grandma from my father's side is the most influential person in my life. I feel like she's the one that has kept the family together all this time, and everybody respects and loves her for who she is. "
BF: You mentioned the Dominican Republic; what was it like growing up there?
JM: It was tough. My dad and my mom separated when I was a little kid, and I was three years old. So I had to live with my stepfather since I was a kid. I had to grind every day and do everything I could just to stay in school and do the right thing. It was hard to go through, but at the same time, it taught me a lot. It gave me what I needed to be the person that I am today. So I'm grateful for all the things that I had to go through in order to be here right now.
BF: I'm sure you play 2K; how good are you, and what's your team of choice?
JM: I'm good, it's the only video game that I actually play. I like the Clippers because of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. Those two are my favorite players in the NBA right now, so I like to play with them.
BF: Favorite postgame food to eat. Are we going for fast food or something more healthy?
JM: I mostly have pasta and Chinese food. I'm not a big fast-food guy. I love rice and chicken or some chicken alfredo pasta. Just talking about it makes me hungry.
BF: What do you hope your legacy will be once you leave Charlotte?
JM: I have many goals that I want to accomplish right now. Accolade-wise, I want to be able to make the first-team all-conference and be a defensive player of the conference as well, stuff like that is nice, but I just want to be able to do something special. Bringing the team to the NCAA tournament and somehow win the conference tournament. I'm willing to do whatever it takes to help my team win. I feel like I'm not really worried about personal accolades. I just want to be the guy that was a part of one of the best teams in Charlotte history.
BF: Looking at the rest of the season, what are some expectations for the final games?
JM: We have (one) more series left before the conference tournament, so I feel like right now we're working more on the defensive side of the ball. I also think we were lacking communication and understanding of what we needed to do in order to win games so I feel like we are especially working on that. These last games are going to help us get the job done and just prepare for the conference because at the end of the day that's where we need to win if you want to make the long run. I feel like we're in a pretty good position right now. We have to face the best teams in our conference so we are pretty confident that we can make a statement. Even though we have lost some, we still can compete against anybody in this conference.
Editor's Note: This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.