In a surprising decision, Cal starting shooting guard Jordan Matthews has elected to transfer for his final season of college. As he will be receiving his undergraduate degree over the summer, Matthews will be eligible to play immediately for the school he chooses as a graduate transfer.
“I want to thank the University of California, Berkeley, the Men’s Basketball staff, my teammates, and the Golden Bear fan base for all of their support throughout the past three years…. I will always be a Cal Bear and I will forever cherish my time in Berkeley,” Matthews wrote in a statement he tweeted on May 31.
While it is still early in his recruiting process as a graduate transfer, the early name thrown around as the favorite is Gonzaga, according to CBS Sports. Gonzaga, who does have an available scholarship, would benefit immensely with the addition of Matthews, as they lose starting guards Kyle Dranginis and Eric McClellan to graduation, and bring in Washington transfer Nigel Williams-Goss to start at point guard. While Gonzaga does bring in the #10 recruiting class according to 247Sports, only one player of their five-man class is a guard, four star shooting guard Zach Norvell from Chicago. While Norvell is talented, an experienced Matthews would provide Norvell time to develop. It would also make Gonzaga, a Top 25 team in many Way-Too-Early Top 25 rankings, even more dangerous.
For Cal, Matthews’ departure slightly curtails expectations for a more promising than expected season for the Golden Bears. Matthews, who averaged 13.5 PPG and shot 42.6% from 3 in the 2015-16 season, was the top scorer and best shooter that would return to the Golden Bears. The Bears were losing point guard Tyrone Wallace to graduation, and freshman star small forward Jaylen Brown to the NBA draft, where he is expected to be at least a top 10 pick, if not top 5.
The main reasons for the increased optimism in Berkeley was the surprising return of freshman power forward Ivan Rabb for his sophomore season, as many expected him to be a lottery pick in the upcoming draft. In addition to Rabb, Cal returns starting shooting guard Jabari Bird for his senior season, as well as four reserves who averaged over 10 MPG. The loss of Matthews is slightly offset by the addition of graduate transfer Grant Mullins from Columbia, who averaged 13.3 PPG and shot 44% from 3 for the Lions. The Bears also add juco transfer Dontae Coleman and four-star point guard Charlie Moore, a former Memphis commit who de-committed after Josh Pastner left for Georgia Tech. Both players will add backcourt depth.
Because of Matthews’ transfer, Cal now has a scholarship available for the next season. While Cal is not in consideration for any more class of 2016 recruits according to 247Sports, they are in the running for Kentucky transfer Marcus Lee. Although Lee will have to sit out a season, the addition of Lee would solidify Cal’s frontcourt for 2017-18 assuming Ivan Rabb declares for the 2017 draft.
In spite of the loss of Matthews, California should have enough talent to build upon a 2015-16 season which saw them go 23-11, earn a 4 seed in the NCAA tournament, and become a sleeper pcik to go to the Final Four before a broken hand sidelined Wallace and back spasms sidelined Bird for their first round game, leading to a loss to Hawaii. Cal will be an NCAA tournament team in 2017, and how the new players and returning veterans step up in Matthews’ absence will decide if Cal will sneak in or become a force to be reckoned with come March.