The O’Gorman Knights have produced a steady pipeline of boys basketball standouts over the last decade or so. Matt Cartwright is the latest, and he stacks up with the best of them.
The 6-foot-5 senior guard is averaging 19.4 points per game for the 14-3 Knights, and will take his talents to the defending Division II national champion Augustana Vikings next year, where he’s expected to make an immediate impact.
The son of former South Dakota State forward Bill Cartwright – who’s a member of the Jackrabbits 1,000-point club – Matt Cartwright has been working his way up through the O’Gorman system since he was in grade school, and is now aiming towards a big finish as his prep career winds down. A combo guard who can fill a variety of roles for the Knights, Cartwright might be the best pure shooter in South Dakota.
“Matt’s the real deal,” said O’Gorman coach Derek Robey. “He’s one of the best shooters we’ve ever had here and one of the best teammates, too. For him to score almost 20 points a game at the ‘AA’ level, especially with the other good players that we have on our team, really says something. We’ve had a lot of great players the last few years – Cedric Lang, Sterling Nielson, Keaton Moffitt – and he’s right up there with those guys.”
Bill Cartwright starred at SDSU in the late 80s, a 6-foot-8 workhorse who averaged at least 10 points and six rebounds in each of his last three seasons with the Jacks. He coached Matt’s youth teams all the way up, and is involved today with the SD Attack AAU program and Warwick Workouts.
Matt says his dad’s playing experiences made him not only a good teacher and coach, but someone who could prepare him for what it would take to reach his potential.
“He’s been a big influence, he’s coached us since second grade,” Matt said. “I think he used a lot of what he had to learn and grew up with, how he handled mistakes and adversity in different ways. I think he’s used that to help make me a better basketball player.”
He also, according to Robey, instilled in his kids a tremendous work ethic. Matt’s older sister, Kate, played varsity basketball for the Knights, and his younger brother Jack is playing on varsity this year as a freshman.
They obviously inherited talent, but that hasn’t been what’s made Matt into a college player.
“It’s not like he just showed up as a great player,” Robey says. “He works as hard as anyone I’ve coached in 30 years. Ever since he’s been a little tomato he’s been coming to all of our camps. When he first started our summer program he’d come and hang out all day long. His camp would be over for hours and he’d still be there with the older guys. He’s just always been a gym rat.”
That work continues today. Cartwright played sparingly on the Knights’ varsity as a freshman, but just when he was starting to make an impact as a sophomore suffered a foot injury that forced him to miss OG’s postseason. That was a motivator.
Now that he’s become a legit high school star, Cartwright is already working towards what it will take to be a well-rounded player at the next level. Robey says his pupil needs to improve his strength and quickness, and Cartwright knows it.
“I’ve had a personal trainer, we do a lot of lower body stuff to help me work on my defense, because that’s probably the worst part of my game,” Matt said. “I’ve worked on quickness and continued to work with my dad and (Attack coach) Lee Taylor and Coach Robey on other parts of my game.”
Augustana hasn’t exactly loaded up its roster with local kids in recent years, and Cartwright is no token addition to the Vikings. Coach Tom Billeter said the Vikings were on Cartwright’s trail early in his high school career, and in offering him a scholarship their expectations are that he’ll be a significant contributor, probably as soon as next season.
“My most favorite thing about him, other than that he’s a great kid from a great family, is that he can really, really shoot it,” Billeter said. “I think he’s going to come in immediately and compete for a lot of playing time. He’s already developed relationships with the guys on our team – he comes to our games and comes into the locker room afterwards. It’s just been a really good thing for our program to have him coming on board.”
Cartwright attended Augie’s dramatic win at USF last week in a tense rivalry atmosphere, and expressed excitement at the opportunity to play with Vikings star point guard Jordan Spencer, who will be a senior when Matt debuts for Augie next year. But there’s still work to do for the Knights, who will be one of the ‘AA’ favorites if they can get big man JP Costello back healthy.
For Cartwright, this represents the final chapter of what’s been a long journey.
“I haven’t thought about it much – I’m sure it’ll start to set in when we get to our last home game, last district game and last state tournament if we get there,” he said. “But as of now I’m just focusing on trying to win games.”
Follow Matt Zimmer on Twitter at @ArgusMattZ .