Five years, 105 wins, one Atlantic 10 regular-season championship, one Atlantic 10 tournament championship, one ACL tear, one broken wrist, two NCAA tournament trips and two tournament wins later, E.C. Matthews’ career at Rhode Island is over.
But it didn’t end before one final emotional embrace with the man who has been by his side the entire way through: his head coach, Dan Hurley.
The Rams’ season came to a close Saturday with an 87-62 loss to Duke in the round of 32. It marked the end of the road for a strong senior class: Matthews, Jarvis Garrett, Stanford Robinson and Andre Berry all played their final game for Rhode Island. It’s a group that redefined what was a struggling program: The Rams have made back-to-back tournaments after not making it since 1999.
Matthews and Hurley have been at the center of the rebuild. Matthews, a four-star recruit, chose the Rams over Arizona and a plethora of other top options in September 2012, just months after Hurley took over the program. Matthews was named an A-10 co-freshman of the year in 2013-214 and made the all-conference second team after averaging 16.9 points in 2014-15. The Rams made the NIT, and expectations were sky-high headed into the 2015-16 season. But Matthews tore his ACL in the season opener, and the team struggled.
After a lengthy rehab and recovery, Matthews set a career high in shooting percentage in 2016-17, and the Rams ended an NCAA tournament drought that at that point had reached nearly two decades. Rhode Island also reached the NCAA tournament this year with Matthews playing a key role in a very deep backcourt. He paced the Rams with 16 points in their opening-round win over Oklahoma and scored 23 against Duke, also a team high. It marked the end of quite a journey for player and coach.
“This is my guy,” Matthews, who was raised in a single-parent household, said postgame. “I know we’re not the same color, but he’s definitely my father. Just trying to walk off the court the right way.”
It’s the end of an era for the Rams, but the contributions of Matthews and his fellow seniors are not soon to be forgotten by anyone involved with the program.