Gonzaga had thousands of fans show up last week to watch the Zags clinch a spot in the Final Four. Even the Zags’ biggest fans – the ones that were sitting right behind them – made sure to get to San Jose, California, for Gonzaga’s historical win.
Several of the Zags looked back and saw their family members, significant others and close friends sitting in a designated section in the stands right behind Gonzaga’s bench. For some of those family members, being able to watch their Zags up close and personal was a rare event.
When Gonzaga’s Jordan Mathews looked behind him last week, he saw one familiar face he doesn’t ever see in the stands – his younger brother, Jonah. It’s not often that Jonah gets to watch Jordan play in a Zags uniform. Last week, however, Jonah was able to get to San Jose from his home in Los Angeles for his brother’s historical run through the NCAA Tournament, almost two weeks after Jonah’s first run in the tournament ended.
Jonah followed his brother’s footsteps this year to college basketball and is now a guard for USC’s basketball team. The Trojans earned an at-large bid to the tournament this season and fell to Baylor in the round of 32.
“It’s been kind of crazy, making the tournament your freshman year and winning two games,” Jonah said on Thursday. “It’s been kind of hectic, but it was so fun. I want to go back the next year.”
And that should always be the goal for any college basketball player – to keep playing in the tournament every year. At least that’s what Jordan has told his younger brother since the beginning of the season.
“The tournament is so fun that you want to get back every single year and go deeper,” Jordan said. “That should be his goal – to get back into the tournament every year.”
Jonah said Jordan has been vague when it comes to his experiences as a college athlete, only because Jordan wants his brother to experience the lifestyle and understand the hard work that it takes to succeed as a student-athlete for himself.
But Jordan has offered a few pieces of advice to his brother to help him get through his first year on the college court, which includes focusing on grades and blocking out the noise and outside criticism that often surrounds college sports.
“College basketball is crazy and it’s fast and it’s wild and things change day to day. I told him he needs to focus every single day on what he needs to do to get better,” Jordan said. “I just told him it’s going to be a long year and you need to enjoy every moment of it and just work to get better and you’ll do fine.”
According to Jordan, Jonah seems to be handling the hectic lifestyle just fine and has already proven himself on the court. This year, Jonah played in 35 games and started in three. He average about 20 minutes on the court and 7 points per game.
Jonah said he was able to see Jordan play one other time earlier in the season when snow kept his team in the Spokane airport while traveling between games.
The two brothers get to watch each other regularly on television, though. Since their games didn’t often conflict with each other this year – Jonah played quite a few games on Wednesdays and Sundays and Gonzaga’s games were mostly on Thursdays and Saturdays – the brothers were able to keep up with each other throughout the season.
“It’s not healthy how emotionally invested I am in his games. I like start throwing Gatorade at the TV,” Jordan said. “It’s different for me now watching my brother play college basketball because I know how hard he’s worked to get to that point and to see it pay off and him get to the tournament is really special.”
Jordan was accompanied by several other family members last week, including his parents, his sisters and his best friend.
The guard admitted it was a little strange looking behind him and seeing all those familiar faces so close to the court, but he was glad they were there for him.
“It’s nice just having your family there and them being able to see you do what you’ve worked so hard for,” Jordan said. “It’s weird at first, but I really enjoyed it.”
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