No other student-athlete at Morris Community High School can claim what Jason Matteson can — that he has advanced to IHSA state in football and basketball.
Matteson was part of the Redskins' Class 5A football state runner-up in the fall. He also advanced to the state final tournament in the Class 3A three-point showdown in 2012 — a feat which he has the chance to repeat beginning at the upcoming Herscher Regional.
Matteson and the Redskins have more immediate concerns. They will host La Salle-Peru for just their fourth home game of the season, and their second since Dec. 18, tonight. Matteson enters that gave averaging 5.9 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 13 games, all starts, for the season. Before practice earlier this week, he sat down with the Morris Daily Herald.
Q. Considering how little you've played at home this season, and especially lately, are you looking forward to Saturday?
A. Yes. It's always a joy to play in front of our home crowd. I feel better playing in front of the home crowd, in front of people we know. It makes for a better atmosphere. After I graduate, when I think back about it, what I'll remember are the times I played here.
Q. How has the team responded so well to long road trips to DeKalb (a 52-44 Morris win Jan. 12) and Geneseo (a 48-43 win Jan. 19)?
A. I think we responded well. We're kind of a young team, and in some ways, we've grown by playing on the road. Those long road trips help us in a way, with the long bus rides to bond with each other. Lately, we've been playing on the road the way we do at home.
Q. What's the story with your shoulder, and how does it feel now?
A. It feels good. I still feel a little bit of pain sometimes. It happened during the (football state) semifinal game, on a blindside hit. I kind of knew something was wrong right away, but I was able to play a couple of more downs before I came out. Then I had to sit out the entire week before the state game. I was able to play at state. Then I had to go through treatments and therapy for a while after that. It feels better and I hope it continues to heal.
Q. Is the team, and are you, truly 100 percent over the issues you faced with the late start due to football?
A. Yes. I think that hurt us a little bit. We weren't exactly ready right off the bat. But we had a lot of guys who weren't in football who were able to practice throughout the fall, and those guys stepped up until the rest of us were back. At this point, I feel none of that is an issue for us anymore.
Q. Does any experience you've had in any sport compare to the football run?
A. I don't think so. What we experienced in football this year is something I will never forget. To be able to not only go to state, but to do it with a great group of guys that I grew up with was something I enjoyed very much. Now I'm in a new sport with new teammates, and while I enjoy playing it just as much, to be part of one of the 10 teams in Morris football history to make it to state is a great feeling.
Q. You recovered a fumble in the Sacred Heart-Griffin (football state semifinal) game. What was it like to contribute that big a play on that stage?
A. It felt good. I have to give the credit for that play to Jake Hogan. He was the one who forced that fumble, and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Getting the ball back was a big help for us winning that game. We were able to continue to build momentum as a defense, and it gave our offense a spark.
Q. How does transitioning from football to basketball compare to transitioning from basketball to baseball?
A. I'd say that in going from football to basketball, the worst part is conditioning. You go from one sport where you sprint for a couple of seconds, then you get a break, then you sprint for a couple seconds and get another break to a sport where you have to go full speed up and down the court.
When you go from basketball to baseball, you have to adjust to a much different pace. In basketball, you never get a break, where in baseball, you get a break between every pitch. You get a lot more rest, but in a way, it's the same as in basketball in that you have to be able to react very quickly when something happens.
Q. Coach (Joe) Blumberg cites your ability to set screens and be a vocal leader as way you contribute. Are those things you take pride in doing?
A. Yes. I always think about coach Blumberg saying that it doesn't take athleticism for you to speak up and be vocal. I like to be a vocal person, because it helps people process things. I like the role of being a leader. I like being a person who does things the way you're supposed to do things, to set an example for our younger players especially.
Q. Regionals — and the three-point showdown — are only a few weeks away. How is your shot looking?
A. It's been better. I still have work to do with it. I'm more worried about what we as a team are going to do in regionals than the three-point showdown. I would enjoy the opportunity to go to state again in it if I get it, but I would rather us win a regional as a team than go to state in the three-point showdown.
Q. What needs to happen for the team to make the kind of deep run in the postseason you made as a shooter last year?
A. As a team, we need to continue to play as a team. We need to work together and accept our roles and do what it takes in all four quarters every night. In the three-point contest, I just need to relax, don't think about the last shot, don't think about last year and do the best I can.