Crouching on the sideline during a timeout, the opposing coach raised his voice and implored his team to make it harder for the player to get open looks at the basket.
“He’s shooting from the moon,” the coach told his players, and he didn’t have to use a name for them to know who he was talking about.
But the player found gaps and kept firing anyway, launching shots from well beyond the 3-point arc and sending them through the net with impressive regularity.
The player was Santa Monica High senior Jonah Mathews. The opposing coach, Crossroads’ Daryl Roper, could only shake his head.
“Here you have a kid shooting the ball from I don’t even know where,” Roper said after facing Mathews and the Vikings boys basketball team in the St. Monica tournament Tuesday afternoon. “It’s like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ That’s just a tough cover. He’s one of the best players in the city.”
The attention Mathews received from Crossroads defenders is the kind of attention he’ll probably get throughout the 2015-16 season as he tries to carry Samohi into the playoffs. The senior guard, who is headed to USC next year, is the undisputed star of a team that is looking to improve upon last season’s sub-.500 overall record.
Mathews’ scoring talents and basketball instincts will certainly help coach James Hecht’s program, which is trying to move forward without three key pieces of last year’s roster.
The Vikings lost graduated senior New Williams, who is now playing in Division I at Auburn under coach Bruce Pearl. They lost Spencer Freedman, who transferred to Santa Ana-Mater Dei after starting as a freshman. And they lost journeyman center Jayce Johnson, who opted to forgo his senior season to enroll early at Utah.
Their absences figure to make even larger what would have already been a pronounced role for Mathews.
The 6-foot-3 captain extends a family legacy at Samohi as he follows in the footsteps of his older brother, Jordan, who is currently playing at Cal.
Both brothers were on the roster in 2012-13, when the Vikings won a section title and advanced to the CIF state championship game before falling to Elk Grove-Pleasant Grove.
But Samohi has regressed in the postseason over the last two years, reaching the second round of the Southern Section Division 1AA playoffs in 2013-14 and falling to Eastvale-Roosevelt in the first round a season ago.
In the first two games of the Vikings’ campaign, Mathews demonstrated his ability to shoulder the offensive load. He poured in a game-high 41 points, including a 3-pointer in the final minute, to help Samohi defeat Pasadena-La Salle in the opener. And he had 29 to lead all scorers against Crossroads.
Mathews had a slow start in the latter game, going without a field goal until sinking a floater midway through the second quarter. But he regrouped in the second half, adding 11 points in the fourth quarter to keep the Vikings close in an eventual 62-60 setback.
Mathews is joined this year by a frontcourt that features senior Mikhail Brown and 6-foot-7 junior Daniel Schreier. Junior guard Marcus Gee and senior guard Chailen August rounded out the starting lineup against Crossroads, while senior forward Tim Southam and junior guards Antonio Holley and Rod Henley contributed off the bench.
Contact Jeff Goodman at 310-573-8351, email@example.com or on Twitter.