Oct. 10, 2008
- 24 Hawkeyes to Watch
- Check out the first “Online Exclusive”
- Save $100 on a season of Iowa Basketball
by Patrick Sojka
IOWA CITY, Iowa — As a high school senior, Matt Gatens led the Iowa City Little Hawks to a state championship. His goal now is to lead the University of Iowa Hawkeyes to a title of their own.
“We haven’t won a regular-season Big Ten title since 1979,” said Gatens. “That sticks out to me. It would be an awesome feeling to leave your mark here as a Big Ten champion. From there it grows to participating in the NCAA Tournament and contending on a national level.”
The recruit from Iowa City understands that it will take a lot of hard work for the young Hawkeyes to meet their expectations.
“Our goal right now is to win that first game and take one game at a time,” Gatens said. “We have to expect the best, as we have a lot of potential. We have a lot of young guys and it will take us some time to grow, but I think we will surprise some people when it is all said and done this year. We have a great group of guys.”
Gatens, the state of Iowa’s 2008 Mr. Basketball and Gatorade Player of the Year, committed to the Hawkeyes as a freshman in high school.
“I committed to the previous coaching staff back when I was a freshman,” Gatens said. “They really persuaded me to Iowa. Then, coach (Todd) Lickliter and his staff came in and did a tremendous job. I went in and talked to Coach when he first got here. We really didn’t talk about basketball — it was more about life and Iowa City. He is just a real down-to-earth, personable guy. I wanted to work and play for him.”
After verbally committing early to Iowa, the 6-foot-5 guard still received a great amount of attention from other schools. He always wanted to be a Hawkeye.
“I received a lot of letters,” Gatens said. “Yet I just could not see myself going anywhere else. I wanted to be a Hawkeye.”
The captain of the state championship all-tournament team admits there are some positives and negatives to committing early.
“It was nice having the recruiting process out of the way,” Gatens said. “Then you can just go out and play basketball. You don’t have to impress anybody in AAU or high school basketball. I was able to help with recruiting. I got to talk to the guys and persuade them to come here. I was like an additional recruiter.
“It would have been interesting to see who else would have talked to me, but I really didn’t care. People always ask, `what other options were out there?’, but I just wanted to come to Iowa. There was a target on my back going through high school being the kid that was going to Iowa, but that just made me work hard and become tougher.”
There is a great deal of Hawkeye spirit in the Gatens family, as everyone in Matt’s immediate family attended the University.
“My dad played basketball here from 1972 to ’76 and my mom was a cheerleader here,” Gatens said. “Both my sisters played sports here. The University of Iowa is in our family blood line. Living in Iowa City my whole life, I couldn’t see myself going anywhere else. It’s nice having my family close by and knowing that they went through the same process in attending the university.”
The City High career scoring leader is also a stellar golfer, earning first-team all-state honors. Golf, combined with basketball and classes, kept the pre-business major busy this summer.
“I play a lot of golf,” Gatens said. “I use that as a `get-away’ from basketball. I was real busy this summer with the Prime Time League, classes and morning workouts. It has been a lot of fun.”