Hardwood Hopefuls: East hoopsters ink college commitments
Should the Plano East boys basketball team anticipate a successful 2012-13 campaign, strong senior seasons from Marcus Mathieu and Jarvis Pugh will be in order.
Wednesday morning, the two Panthers were front and center making their respective college commitments official on National Signing Day.
"It's very rewarding," Mathieu said. "I'm excited to see what God has planned for me. I've been working at this since I was 2 years old. Me and Jarvis grew up together and this is a big-time feeling for me."
Mathieu's signing culminates what the 5-foot-11 point guard felt was a slow recruiting process; one more so of redemption.
"I felt like I was being underrated a bit, but McNeese (State) saw me play in early June and hopped on me strong," he said. "[McNeese head coach Dave Simmons] showed me some love and going down there, he told me that if I worked hard then it could be my team for four years."
The Cowboys initially contacted Mathieu during an AAU campaign with the Dallas Seawolves and the guard made his visit to the Louisiana-based campus Oct. 13. There, he attended a football game and immersed himself in the atmosphere, which included watching the basketball team's first practice.
"I liked the way [Simmons] ran his practices," Mathieu said. "He doesn't try to kill you; he tries to help you through it and do things like get you right and progressively work with you. I just loved that kind of atmosphere."
Mathieu committed the following day, with McNeese outlasting the likes of Texas State, San Jose State and Wyoming.
"[McNeese was] on me the heaviest," Mathieu said. "A lot of the other schools showed some light interest, but McNeese was on me strong and telling me what I'd be able to bring to their program."
Mathieu is undecided on a major, but leaning toward something in the fields of either pharmacy or business.
Pugh is eyeing biology or business with hopes of being a veterinarian.
He'll do so at Santa Clara, which reached out to the 6-foot-5 guard in late July. An in-home visit was scheduled and, a few weeks after that, Pugh ventured to western California to check out the campus.
"Santa Clara is a very family-oriented team," he said. "When I went there, they said they loved the way I played and felt like I could have an immediate impact as a freshman. I'm a defensive guy first and an offensive guy second and they felt like I could help them get to the NCAA Tournament."
Like his teammate, Pugh's mind was made up the day after he returned home, selecting Santa Clara over a field that included Texas State, Utah and Washington State.
"It's amazing and a true blessing," Pugh said. "I feel like I finally made it."
The two will tend to their duties on the East ballcourt beforehand in what the Panthers hope to be a rebound campaign from last season's 15-17 effort.
As a junior, Mathieu led the Panthers in scoring (10.9 points per game) and assists (3.8) while Pugh chipped in off the bench with 3.8 points and 2.4 rebounds. This season, expectations are higher -- so much so that East is ranked No. 15 in the state according to the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches.
Living up to that bar gets a wee bit easier with Wednesday now in the past.
"We've got some buzz," Mathieu said. "With the pressure of signing off me, I'm now just trying to help get to Austin and lead this team down there."
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