Q+A: Adia Mathies
The Kentucky Preseason All-American is focused on winning a National Championship.
by Christian Mordi / @mordi_thecomeup
“Rome wasn’t built in a day,” is a wise saying. Adia Mathies lives by that code in her basketball career. A top-50 recruit in high school, Mathies had her pick of many top schools, but decided to stay close and play for the University of Kentucky and rebuild.
Mathies’ idea worked. Adia has been a key force for her program and put UK Womens’ Basketball among the elite in the nation. Last year was a success for the crafty wing, as she won SEC Player of the Year and pushed her team to the Elite Eight. Mathies linked with SLAMonline to discuss her passionate defense, the addition of three former McDonald’s All-Americans to the roster, why she feels this is the year they reach the Final Four and more.
SLAM: Adia, you were a top prospect in high school with many schools vying for you attention. What made UK stand out to you?
Adia Mathies: A big factor was how close it was to home. I also felt it was a growing program that was on the come up that could showcase my skills and I wanted to take a chance here.
SLAM: You tallied 3,113 career points and 2,583 rebounds while starting at guard seven consecutive seasons on the high school level. You have always been a good rebounding guard, is rebounding an art to you, something coaches have instilled in you over time?
AM: When I was younger, I was actually one of the bigger players on my team, so they needed me near the rim which allowed me a chance to really make an impact on the boards.
As I carried out to college, rebounding was something that stuck with me a lot. It was never forced, just a passion to make an impact.
SLAM: Varsity basketball since sixth grade. So I guess it’s safe to say that you have loved the game since day one?
AM: Yeah, I have loved the game since I was young.
SLAM: How early are you eligible to play varsity high school basketball in Kentucky?
AM: In Kentucky, you are eligible to play on the high school level at sixth grade, many just play on the elementary level, though.
SLAM: You were 2010 SEC Freshman of the Year. Did you also feel your first year was a success, and why do you feel you made the transition to college basketball so smooth?
AM: I felt I was even in high school doing everything I could to prepare to make a big impact my first year in [college]. I didn’t get caught up in high school and the style of play there, I was just really focused on how my game could translate to the next level and what I could do to prepare my game for that. I also prepared equally as hard for that transition academically. I had mentors like my coach and dad that really pushed me and prepared me.
SLAM: Your team has returned a lot of solid players plus bought in three McDonald’s All-Americans in DeNesha Stallworth, Janee Thompson and Jennifer O’Neill (who missed last season with a foot injury). How important will these new pieces be to the team this year?
AM: They are very important. Having Stallworth on the block is a huge help for us. I think one thing we have been missing in the past is a solid post presence to help keep teams honest. Also getting Janee and Jennifer as added weapons on the wing and at point will be a huge addition. They will all be key contributors this year.
SLAM: You have made All-SEC Defense two consecutive years. Is playing defense something that you really take pride in, and is this what you feel is a staple of UK Basketball?
AM: I think playing hard defense is a staple of UK Basketball, but I take a lot of pride in defense myself as well, personally. I go out there and try to give my best effort each play. Whatever it is they need, deflections, blocking shots, defensive rebounding—I do whatever I can to help the team.
I think defense all starts with hustle and pride in what you do on that side of the floor. If you give your all there and hustle, I think many can achieve a lot there too.
SLAM: You nabbed 2.6 steals per game last year. Any defensive tricks you have up your sleeve that you feel gives you an edge on that side of the floor?
AM: No tricks, just a lot of time spent in practice on being in position to make a play. We also spend a lot of time working on footwork as well. That allows us to be aggressive and recover fast.
SLAM: What did winning SEC Player of the Year mean to you? Is this a personal goal you would like to achieve again this year?
AM: Yeah, in regards to last year winning the award was a personal goal I had and I felt I could achieve if I came out and played hard and to my potential. I am hoping to achieve that again this year and more as well. It’s an honor to have a chance to repeat the feat of winning the award of the best player in the conference, especially in a conference as prestigious as the SEC. I just plan to work hard and have it fall into place again.
SLAM: You were also an All-American and Preseason Player of the Year. Are you looking forward to an early season matchup with Baylor to set the tone and show the world just how talented you and your teammates are?
AM: It will be a good game. It is really cool to have a chance to play against great players like Odyssey Sims and Griner, plus returning starters from a team that won a National Championship.
We are focused on the season as a whole more importantly, and being our own 40-0 team and winning a National Championship.
SLAM: How do you feel you are most effective on the floor? What do you feel is a strength of your game and a weakness you worked on to improve this year?
AM: I thought coming into the season, I would have a lot of attention on me this year, so I focused a lot on taking my game to another level in regards to moving and creating without space and without the ball. Being aggressive with my cuts will also allow me to get other players more open. I also wanted to improve on my free-throw percentage.
I felt it was key for me to focus a lot of energy of making more shots on the move, especially three-pointers. In close games, I have to be able to get that shot off effectively. Not just being a spot shooter, but off of a stagger and things like that.
SLAM: Many people know that you ladies thrive off of turnovers. Do you feel you guys have made strides in the half court this year?
AM: We definitely have made huge strides in the half court. We of course want to pick the speed of the game up as much as possible, but in the half court we can still get after you as well. We are known for our full court defense, but I believe our half court defense is just as tough.
SLAM: You have been to the Elite Eight twice. Do believe this is the year you have the pieces around you to step into that next level and jump to the Final Four?
AM: Yeah, I believe we do. I feel like we have added pieces and still brought back enough key players from last year as well. We have been trying to take strides forward each day and have a winner’s mindset this year.
SLAM: How do you gauge success?
AM: By pushing yourself as hard as possible. If we pushed ourselves as hard as possible, but we were a .500 team, that would still be success to me. Not everyone is blessed with the same talent, but giving it your all is what truly matters. That’s true for on and off the court.