November 20, 2003 at 2:24 p.m.
For Matt Fletcher, November 12 was D-day for the North Branch senior. It was dream day, the day where a simple signature represented a dream fulfilled. A simple signature representing Fletcher’s intent to play basketball at Southwest State next season. A simple signature.
“I feel relieved, I was pretty anxious to get it over with,” said Fletcher. “I have the whole year to look forward to and nothing to worry about now.”
It runs a little deeper than that.
“He’s always had a goal of getting a basketball scholarship. He’s worked hard for it,” commented Bill Baumann, North Branch boys basketball head coach. “He’s really been a great leader for us. He’s worked hard and it goes to show that hard work pays off. I knew he was at that level, I just didn’t know how high he could go. Going D-II, he’ll probably get some playing time right away. If he would go to a small D-I, he probably wouldn’t play for a couple of years.”
For Fletcher, college basketball has always been the goal but he’s wasn’t always sure it would come. After moving up the varsity as a freshman, he’s been a staple in the Viking line-up. The two time Rum River all-conference selection reached new heights in his basketball career last year when he was named All-State Honorable Mention. Still, going into last summer, the phone had stopped ringing. It took a performance in Indianapolis in June playing AAU basketball to change his fortunes.
“I had some interest but then they (Southwest State) saw me play in a tournament this summer and that’s when they saw me,” remembers Fletcher. “Playing in the summers is like how college ball is going to be. I played against guys who are going to the U (University of Minnesota) and Marquette, that’s the style of play it’s going to be like. After that, they kept on calling.”
It took Fletcher two months to official commit to the Mustangs after weighing all of his options. Finally on September 5, just hours before Fletcher was about to take the football field versus Rogers, the guard verbally committed.
“I was actually going to wait and weigh my options but the colleges stopped calling. There were a few in the picture, a lot of D-III schools and a select few D-II schools, and these guys kept on calling,” remarked Fletcher. “I went down there for two visits. It was a long time before I signed, I had time to think, but I was pretty much set on them from the beginning.”
The sign a coup for the Mustangs who will be searching for shooters next season.
“Matt is a great shooter which was our number one priority heading into this recruiting class,” said Greg Stemen, Southwest State mens basketball head coach. “We lose Jared Keaveny and Rory Larson to graduation next season so we’re extremely excited to have Matt sign. He has great range and is an outstanding competitor and all-around athlete.”
“I think he’ll fit in really well. Colleges get to recruit who they want. Obviously, he’s going to fit in there,” remarked Baumann. “They are looking for a two guard or a three who can shoot the ball well. The things they wanted, they got with him.”
Early signs point to Fletcher playing and playing a lot as a freshman. First though, his senior season in the red and black. With one goal out of the way, it’s time to focus on the rest of them.
“It’s a big time relief. Now I can focus on my senior year and reaching all of the goals I want to reach for this team,” replied Fletcher. “I have thinking college since I was young, that’s been my goal since I was a little guy, to get a scholarship somewhere,” said Fletcher. “The dream was D-I, but obviously I’ve done my best with what I have with my height and quickness. Division two is a good choice. Now I want to enjoy this season and make my last season here my best.”
Fletcher’s next move is to join the 1,000 point club at North Branch. He is 77 points shy of reaching that goal. The Vikings start practice on Monday with their first game coming December 5 versus Cambridge.