Posted On: 01/10/20 3:52 PM

The roads were incredibly icy last Friday night, and I was stuck behind a salt truck literally doing 18 miles per hour on highway 99 between St. Peter and Nicollet. It was a harrowing couple of hours, but I kept going because I knew this was the only opportunity I was going to have all season to do something I have been trying to do for the past two years: watch Madison MathiowetzMadisonMathiowetz5'9" | CGSleepy Eye St. Mary's | 2022StateMN play a high school basketball game. Was it ever worth the trip!

The sophomore guard from Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s did everything as advertised – and so much more. Maddie scored a career-best 50 points against Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart, eclipsing her previous high of 47 while putting the ball in the basket every which way that’s possible. It was a performance that reinforced my opinion that Mathowetz is one of the best Class A players in Minnesota. Actually, she is one of the best players in Minnesota period.

“We knew in 7th grade already that she was going to be a special player in our program because she can do so many things,” said Knights coach Bruce Woitas after the game. “She can play outside, she can play inside, she can handle the ball, she shoots the ball exceptionally well, she’s a great finisher and she has a great passion for the game of basketball, and with that she still makes everybody else around her better, as well. I mean she had 50 points tonight but she still had a number of assists. She’s just one of those special players that you don’t see very often, and she’s only a sophomore so we’re going to have her around for a while yet.”

At 5’10, with a big frame and a muscular build, Mathiowetz is a rare combination of strength, speed, quickness and agility. She handles the ball well with either hand, and doesn’t succumb easily to ball pressure. Mathiowetz is very much a north-south type of player. She does not squander valuable time or energy with extra dribbles or take risks with fancy passes. It’s not that she couldn’t – the skill is definitely there – but she doesn’t, because it’s not necessary.

Her goal is the simply to put the ball in the bucket, an objective to be achieved in the simplest, most direct, most efficient way possible. Why waste time going east and west when the most direct path to the basket is south to north? Although she doesn’t shoot a lot from distance in high school play – why bother when you can beat everyone else to the rim? – Mathiowetz has a beautiful stroke and plenty of range.

Teams have attempted a variety of defensive schemes to try contain the star attraction. “We’ve seen a lot of box-and-one with her, and we have seen teams double-team her,” Woitas said. “She just has a knack to get herself open and find the ball, find teammates and finish shots.”

Putting up the numbers

Mathiowetz’s career numbers are impressive, and there is little doubt that she will eventually find herself on the wall of honor in the St. Mary’s gym where the names of her dad Matt, uncle Sean and aunts Ashley and Molly are already displayed, along with their eye-popping career point totals. “Molly leads the girls scoring at 1,709, Sean is the top scorer in boys history at 1,838 and Madison has a chance to top them both,” Woitas said. “It’s a family that has obviously invested a lot into the game of basketball.”

Through last weekend, Maddie had played 68 varsity games and scored 1,437 points (21 ppg) with a 56% success rate from the field, 70% at the free throw line. She has career averages of 8 rebounds, 2.5 steals, and 2.4 assists per game. This season she is averaging nearly 28 points per game. As a freshman, Mathiowetz was named Tomahawk Conference Player of the Year and passed the 1,000-career points mark. She earned all-state honorable mention from the coaches and was the only freshman to make the Prep Girls Hoops class A all state squad.

Clearly, Mathiowetz is virtually unstoppable at the class A level. The question is can she perform similarly at a higher level? I have to admit I was skeptical 12 months ago.

At this time last year it wasn’t hard to figure out that Maddie could score. The tweets about her accomplishments were numerous – 30+ points here, 40+ points there – but the numbers were being generated against teams like Sibley East, Minnesota Valley Lutheran and Wabasso. No offense intended towards those programs, but it’s not the same as putting 30 up against Hopkins or Wayzata or Maple Grove. Could Mathowetz do similar things against bigger, stronger, faster opponents with everyone watching closely?

The answer came last summer when Mathiowetz played one year up for Dan Wolfe’s 2021 Minnesota Rise squad. When the AAU season opened I took the earliest possible opportunity to see for myself. Just a few minutes into that first game it was obvious. Mathowetz was the best player on the floor, a special talent capable of dominating a game while playing with and against higher-level players.

I kind of laugh looking back now. I mean, we had the same doubts about Gianna KneepkensGiannaKneepkens5'11" | CGDuluth Marshall | 2021State#86NationMN of Duluth Marshall, who was doing similar things against similar opponents up north. She has certainly answered all of the questions, checks all of the boxes, and has the high-end offers to show for it. Mathiowetz and Kneepkens are very different types of players but their impact on the game is much the same. Over the next nine or 10 months Madison will have opportunities to do some more proving.

I’d love to see her compete at a few showcases and individual events, things like Check Me Out in Minneapolis in the fall and the Prep Girls Hoops Top 250 Expo. I’d like to see what she can do at Division 1 elite camps, too. Until that happens, there will still be doubters. When that happens there will be more believers. The end result should be D1 offers and the opportunity to prove it again at the highest level on the biggest stage.

“Madison is very coachable and will to do whatever we need her to do,” Woitas said. “She’s just one of those players that is always looking to learn and get better and she works hard at it every day in practice. You have to give Madison a lot of credit because she has put a lot of time in and she’s trying to make herself better.”

Top photo: Sophomore Madison MathiowetzMadisonMathiowetz5'9" | CGSleepy Eye St. Mary's | 2022StateMN of Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s is a rare talent. (Photo courtesy of Sleepy Eye News)