Wes Matthews' Back-to-School Shopping Spree

Wes Matthews teamed up with Academy to send local students back to school in style.

As Mavs guard Wes Matthews continues a comeback attempt of his own, he also spent some time assisting local kids with back-to-school shopping just in time for their first day.

Matthews, who signed with the Mavs during free agency this summer, is recovering from a torn Achilles he suffered toward the end of last season. But Sunday wasn’t about stretching, lifting, or shooting. It was about 30 children from Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Texas, their families, and lots and lots of shopping. Matthews and the Driven2Greatness foundation teamed up with Academy Sports + Outdoors in Dallas to give 30 students $150 each to use for purchasing new backpacks, shoes, clothes, and other necessities.

“Anytime you get a chance to give back and stake your claim in your city and new home, and just be a mentor and role model,” Matthews said. “Someone the kids can look up to. It’s as gratifying for me as it is for them.”

The 6-foot-five shooting guard spent much of his time up and down the aisles of Academy dishing out advice on kids’ taste. For example, he told one youngster that if he wants shoes, he’d better get some black Nikes, but he also has to get a shirt or two to match. Matthews essentially shut down one aisle of the story during a game of catch with one boy he jokingly called “Little Megatron,” named after Detroit Lions star wideout Calvin Johnson. He gave another 13-year-old a high five when she told him her goal is to attend college at Baylor after high school.

“We’re here for school. We’re here to make sure that our futures are intact,” he said. “We’re here because we can’t play sports without our academics.”

It hasn’t even been two months since Matthews put pen to paper to sign with Dallas, but it already appears that he’s the type of player the Mavs love to have on the roster. Between his enthusiasm when hanging out with the kids at Academy to watching Summer League practices he didn’t need to attend, he looks ready to work to make Dallas better on and off the floor. As for the rest of the roster, he’s optimistic about that, too.

“I think we’re gonna shock a lot of people,” Matthews said about the upcoming 2015-16 season. “We have a talented roster on paper and I think that we’re gonna be able to put that together on the court sooner than people think. I’m excited for it. Talking to some of the guys, they’re excited for it. Being in the arena, our young guys are there, our vets are there. We’re really serious about it.”

To Matthews and many other Mavericks, the day players report at the end of next month will feel a lot like the first day of school. It’s a new environment for many Mavericks, and there will be a lot of faces to get used to. Like the 30 students at Academy, the new Mavs will have to develop a strong relationship with their fellow classmates but also their teacher, head coach Rick Carlisle, before things really get going in October.

But Matthews does have some connections to current teammates. During his rookie season with the Utah Jazz, Matthews shared the backcourt with new Mavs point guard Deron Williams. His connection with forward Chandler Parsons, though, is a little more unique. The two stayed close throughout the free agency process and have spent time together this summer.

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In addition to both of them playing at a high level last season, they’ve both also spent the summer recovering from injuries suffered at the very end of the campaign. A knee injury Parsons suffered in April eventually sidelined him for the final four games of the Mavs’ first-round series against the Houston Rockets. Earlier this summer, Parsons said his inability to perform conventional workouts this summer will actually help him in the future, as he has instead worked on other areas of his body he typically ignores. Matthews, meanwhile, said the same thing.

“I keep saying I’m going to be back better than ever because I am doing things that I normally wouldn’t be doing,” he said. “Had I not gotten hurt, I wouldn’t be doing Pilates, stretching, working on my hip flexors, foam rolling, icing, and taking time off the way that I am. I’d be in the gym every single day. Through this, my tendon is stronger than ever and I’m gonna be back better.”

That’s the type of attitude required to come back sooner than expected from an Achilles tear. In the past, players have taken a year or more off after suffering such an injury. Matthews, though, hopes to do it in less than seven months. Actually, “hope” might not be the right word. Maybe the word we’re looking for is “expects.”

“(Recovery is) one of those things that when you’re ready, you’re ready,” he said. “And I have no doubt that I’m gonna be ready by the time opening night hits. I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m not overdoing it, which a lot of people were afraid of me doing. I’m staying the course, I’m listening to the doctors, the PTs, and the trainers. I’m getting stronger every day.”

If Matthews has his way, and he really does turn a negative into a positive, then by the time his first day of school rolls around, he’ll have the freshest kicks in the class, much like the kids he hung out with this past weekend.

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