The scenery has changed from Indiana to Spain to Texas and back to Indiana again but the dream remains the same.
And even though professional basketball, like much of the sports world, remains shut down except for small tentative steps, Dakota Mathias is continuing to pursue his dream of playing in the NBA.
Mathias, the Division II boys basketball state Co-Player of the Year at Elida High School in 2014, was having a good season with the Texas Legends, the NBA G League affiliate of the the Dallas Mavericks, when the Legends’ season came to an abrupt halt in early March because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The 6-foot, 4-inch guard was averaging 18.1 points a game and shooting 39.5 percent on 3-pointers and was named to the G League’s All-Midseason team.
Twenty-two of the NBA’s 30 teams are scheduled to resume their seasons on July 30 at Disney World in Orlando, Fla., but the G League is done for this year.
Once the Texas Legends closed their doors for the season Mathias and his wife Gabby moved to Zionsville, Indiana, a city of around 27,000 located 50 miles south of West Lafayette, where he was a two-time honorable mention All-Big Ten player at Purdue.
Since graduating from Purdue, where he is second all-time in 3-point shots made, he has played in the NBA Summer League in 2018 and 2019 and was invited to the Dallas Mavericks’ preseason camp in 2019. He also played 14 games in the top professional league in Spain in the 2018-19 season before suffering an ankle injury.
Zionsville became the latest stop on his basketball journey because he wanted to continue to work on his game with Joey Burton, a former college coach sometimes known as The Shot Doctor, who has a gym there and has instructed several high-level college and NBA players.
There have been reports NBA rosters will be expanded to 17 players from 15 for the remainder of this season. Some players have expressed some reluctance to go to Florida, a coronavirus hot spot, and others have had season-ending surgeries or are still recovering from injuries.
So, Mathias thinks the uncertainty of this season could possibly open a door to the NBA slightly more for him.
“There are definitely opportunities if guys choose not to play. And a lot of the (roster) rules are changing because of what’s happening so there could be opportunities opening up depending on what teams decide to do,” he said.
“That’s why we decided to move here and move closer to my trainer and work out here and just stay ready. You never know when that phone will ring. That’s the same mindset I had during the season. You always have to keep working regardless of the situation. My agent has talked to some teams. You never know what could happen.”
Looking back at his G League season, Mathias said, “I thought I had a pretty good year overall. I showed what I could do at that level. The G-League is a lot better league than a lot of people give it credit for. There is some big-time talent in that league. To play at the level I did, I was happy.
“Obviously, you always want that call up. You have to stick with it, you never know what could happen in these next couple months. I felt like I was really close. But you just have to keep working and everything will take care of itself,” he said.
Mathias, whose dream of reaching the NBA goes back to when he was eight or nine years old, says he is in it for the long haul regardless of whether or not he gets a call this season.
“It’s still my dream and a big goal for me,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing, giving everything you have to it. I’m going all in. It’s my ultimate goal and I’ll do whatever it takes to get there. We’ll see what happens.”
Mathias has scheduled a basketball camp for boys and girls from kindergarten through eighth grade on July 23-24 in Elida. Information and registration forms can be found at www.dakotamathias.com.
“I was originally pretty hesitant about having it but the big thing that swung me is all the people and parents and some kids were reaching out and asking. I didn’t know if they would feel comfortable with it,” he said.
“I want health and safety first obviously. But there were so many kids who were reaching out and were interested I felt like a lot of people want to get out of the house and get playing again and get active.”
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414.