OLEAN, N.Y. (WIVB) — The jump shot that took Chris Matthews around the world and into celebrity circles was refined here at Reilly Center. Fifteen years ago, sitting out the season between his transfer from Washington State to St. Bonaventure, Matthews accepted the challenge from the Bonnies’ first-year coach Mark Schmidt. Drilling at all hours with student managers rebounding for him, extending his shooting range while expanding his comfort zone, made for “definitely some of the toughest times of my life,” Matthews recalled.
“I knew I was a great shooter, but they were making me an even greater shooter,” he said.
In time, Matthews would morph into the renowned “Lethal Shooter.”
Basketball trainer to the stars, Matthews has amassed viral fame for his mind-bending shooting displays, along with a social media following of more than 2 million. He’s appeared in the NBA2K video game, and a scene with LeBron James in the Netflix movie “Hustle,” starring Adam Sandler. An official NBA ambassador despite never playing in the league, Matthews has endorsement deals with Nike and Red Bull.
Among the pro hoops stars in Matthews’ orbit are Candace Parker, Anthony Davis, Domantas Sabonis, Skylar Diggins-Smith, and one of the NBA’s current leaders in 3-point percentage, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Matthews’ celebrity clientele list is even more impressive: Drake, Diddy, Flea, Jamie Foxx and Michael B. Jordan, to name a few. Billionaire Mark Cuban invested in Matthews’ personal coaching, even though he employs a full staff of basketball coaches as owner of the Dallas Mavericks.
“I always knew I was going to be successful, but I didn’t know I would be this successful,” Matthews said. “Sometimes when I sit at home, I still can’t believe what I’m doing.”
As his celebrity stature soared, Matthews felt pulled back to the small college where his ambitions were grounded. Leaving NBA All-Star weekend early, Matthews ventured back for Bona’s homecoming, his first campus visit since graduating in 2010.
“This is a priceless moment,” Matthews said Sunday before watching Bona’s 83-81 overtime loss to George Washington from a seat on the baseline next to athletic director Joe Manhertz, who greeted Matthews pregame with a “welcome home.”
“I definitely know that if I didn’t come here, I probably wouldn’t be as big as I am,” Matthews said. “I say in my GQ interviews, my Nike interviews, my Red Bull interviews, how much this place means to me. But I have to start coming back to prove to people that I really love this place, and appreciate this place.”
A Washington, D.C. native who was a high school teammate of Kevin Durant, after playing two seasons in the Pac-10 for coach Tony Bennett at Washington State, Matthews became a foundation piece in Schmidt’s rebuild of the Bona program.
“He was a great player and it’s great to have him back,” Schmidt said.
Arriving in Schmidt’s first year and joining the starting lineup after his redshirt season, Matthews’ 182 made 3-pointers in 61 games rank seventh in team history. He held records for most 3s in a season (101) and a game (eight), and for reaching 100 career 3s in 36 games. As a senior, he ranked seventh in the nation in 3s per game (3.2) on 39% accuracy.
“Coach Schmidt gave me the unlimited green light,” Matthews said. “There were games when I didn’t shoot great, but he made me feel like I was the greatest shooter. And that’s how I became who I am, because he never made me feel less than. But you had to put in the work.”
Matthews will attend men’s and women’s basketball practices on Monday. He hosted a student shooting contest at halftime Sunday, before cheering on the Bonnies as they shot their way back from down 18 with 12 minutes left in regulation to force overtime. Matthews posed for photos with fans long after the game ended.
“Coming back to St. Bonaventure is amazing,” Matthews said. “When I woke up and saw the campus, it definitely brought back a lot of memories. It was a dream come true.”
Jonah Bronstein joined the News 4 roster in 2022 as a digital sports reporter. Read more of his work here.