For a small-town kid from New Hampshire, sophomore forward Matt McCool feels he’s only at the beginning of his long-term goals and the success he strives for.
McCool, who spent up until his senior year in Amherst, New Hampshire at Souhegan High School, has come a long way since shooting hoops in the Granite State. McCool averaged 18.1 points per game in his junior year, good enough to be a New Hampshire SportsPage First Team All-State player. His most difficult task came when he had to leave his hometown behind to seek out his basketball career at South Kent School in Connecticut, and he never looked back.
For McCool, making the decision to go nearly four hours from home before even committing to a college proved to be difficult. He expressed how although the transition and decision to leave his home created challenges, he effectively put himself in the best situation to continue his basketball journey.
“A lot of college coaches had suggested that I make the change and go to a prep school to play at a higher level,” said McCool. “So I knew I was going to have to make a lot of difficult decisions to be where I am today.”
McCool became a valuable prospect due to his ability to get work done on both sides of the floor. While still attending Souhegan, McCool made big-time plays on offense with his ability to take fastbreaks off of his defensive plays, while showcasing his work in the paint on defense a compliment to his game.
McCool didn’t miss a beat transferring those skills over to South Kent. McCool cherished the competitiveness of being at a preparatory school due to the players around him, which gave him the ability to get better every day he played.
“Being at South Kent showed me what it was like to be playing against some of the best Division I level athletes there day in and day out,” said McCool. “My experience there playing with other really high-level guys set me up for those high-level and competitive moments that I experience now.”
McCool knew after his time at South Kent that he wanted to continue to play at the next level. This was no easy task for McCool. While talking to several coaches and schools, he ultimately decided to pick Marist.
“My recruiting was a little stressful and I really just wanted to find a place that was going to be a great fit for me.” said McCool “The coaches here really made me feel like I was a part of a family and a close-knit group of guys and just a lot of good people really, but just the care they showed me during the recruiting process was more than other schools.”
While only seeing the floor for 13 minutes in the 2022-23 season, McCool was fortunate to be a part of the Marist MAAC Cinderella run to their first championship appearance in the program, but fell short of the NCAA tournament after a loss to the Iona Gaels. Despite the shortcomings, the run came with a plethora of experience for the team to carry over to this year, but also for McCool personally.
“It was amazing for me and my teammates to just see that type of playing level and to compete in it ourselves,” said McCool. “Just being able to see it up close and see what the intensity of it is like was very important for us to gain that experience.”
McCool did not see the floor too much last year due to his spot on the roster in a stacked rotation, with the starter being then-senior forward Patrick Gardner, a player that helped him get better in the position while taking in his play style.
“Being behind a guy like Patrick [Gardner]–who obviously was a very talented player and continues to be– left me with another type of experience I don’t think I would have been able to have without being behind him this past year,” said McCool.
With plenty of fresh faces on the roster, McCool believes this can be his year to step into a bigger role on the team and show his personal development.
“I just want to be out there with my brothers that I am practicing with and going to war with every day. I want to be able to help the team in any way I can,” said McCool. “The coaches are looking for guys who are going to overall bring toughness as well as competitiveness.”
Over the past summer, McCool has been working on his game and getting his production up so that he can benefit the team in any way possible. McCool went into this past summer focusing on his shooting and efficiency in both mid-range and the deep threat. Another big task for McCool going into the past summer was re-learning how to space the floor.
“The number one thing would be my shooting, just getting more confident in everything related to finding the right shots, and knowing what to take and seeing the ball go through the net a lot more.” said McCool.
McCool has high expectations and aspirations heading into his sophomore year of collegiate ball, not only for himself, but for his team. McCool believes that the team this season has unity in what they expect come the end of the season.
“I think we are all expecting a great regular season,” said McCool. “I just think the good thing about this year’s group is that now that we have a taste of what it feels to be so close to the championship we have that drive to get back there and change the outcome.”
Edited by Danny Destler and Dan Aulbach
Graphic Credit: Cara Lacey
Photos from Marist Athletics