Wes Matthews was one of the best basketball players in University of Wisconsin history.
In 1978-79, he was MVP of a team that won more games than any of the four previous seasons. He scored 18.1 points per game in his career, third-best in program history. His college success led him to be drafted No. 14 overall in 1980, and he spent nine seasons in the NBA, winning two championships with the Lakers.
As he played in the pros, Wes fathered a son who grew up in Madison: Wesley Mathews.
Wesley went on to play at Marquette and now starts at shooting guard for the Portland Trail Blazers. He recently opened up about his relationship with his father.
Shortly after, according to the Trail Blazer guard, Matthews Sr. “took off,” leaving the child before he ever knew his father, in a place where everybody else did.
“I’m living in probably his second-most popular city that he’s lived in other than Bridgeport,” he said. “I mean, he’s the man in Wisconsin. I’m carrying his name and I knew nothing about him other than that everybody else around me loved him. And I’m having the toughest time trying to figure out why the hell he’s not around.”
Matthews has been dubbed the “Iron Man” for his willingness to play through multiple injuries with reckless abandon. The moniker is fitting. However, the rigid iron settled in long before his basketball days.
“I don’t know if I’ll fully know the extent of my upbringing until I have a kid,” he admitted. “I know it hardened me. It made me tougher. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. But I know I’ll find out down the road.”
I hope Matthews gets whatever he wanted by sharing his story – whether that’s peace of mind, to be a role model for others in similar situations or anything else.
I also hope two repair their relationship, and that appears to be headed on the right track. Haynes:
Matthews says his dad made the step of trying to enter his life when he was a senior in high school. A hardened Matthews was reluctant and hesitant to embrace him, and much of that remains today.
Matthews Sr. continues to make a concerted effort to be a part of his son’s life. He’ll show up at road games and keeps in touch through text messages.
Do you ever think things will ever be repaired?
“Yeah, we will,” Matthews said. “I can probably do a little bit more. He can probably do a little bit more. I think it’ll happen over time.”