Latrobe's Matt Cullen leads boys basketball team
TribLIVE Sports Videos
A summer's worth of hard work has made the winter basketball season look easy for Matt Cullen.
The 6-foot-2 Latrobe junior spent his summer days taking hundreds of shots — between 400 and 500 a day, by his estimation — followed by weight training, summer league games and drills to enhance ball handling and foot speed.
The intense preparation was necessary for Cullen, who is counted on to score and shut down the opponent's top player. A typical series includes driving for a layup then sprinting back on defense and weaving through screens.
Cullen is the only returning starter from a team that made the playoffs last season then graduated seven seniors.
“A whole lot of scoring and rebounding and everything else left the team,” Wildcats coach Brad Wetzel said.
Cullen has filled the scorer's role with an average of 16 points.
“I knew they were going to look to me for more points,” he said.
That knowledge may have weighed on Cullen's mind. Earlier this season, Wetzel worried Cullen was forcing or rushing his offense. The Wildcats lost four of their first five games.
“We kind of struggled through the early part of the year,” Wetzel said. “I think it was us getting used to everybody having different roles. Every time you step out there as a team you learn something new. Thankfully, we've been able to learn some things and put some numbers in the win column.”
The Wildcats have won six in a row through Friday, in no small part thanks to Cullen and his robust scoring average. The winning streak began Dec. 20 against Norwin. It's no coincidence that since then Wetzel has noticed a more relaxed version of Cullen.
“We went down to the locker room afterwards, and Matt was the happiest guy in the locker room,” Wetzel said.
A blend of nurtured skills and raw talent is what makes Cullen special. Wetzel said he is a hard worker with attributes that can't be taught.
“He has the ability to take people off the dribble about as good as anybody I've seen in the WPIAL,” Wetzel said. “I think he's that good with the ball. He just kills you with that first step.”
Now that Cullen and the Wildcats are beginning to gel, the question remaining is whether they can keep the wins coming. At 7-4 overall and 3-1 in Section 1-AAAA, the Wildcats are in the thick of things, trailing Hempfield (5-0 in section) and Kiski (5-1) in the section.
“I think we can get better,” Cullen said. “I think we can compete for a section championship.”
Ed Phillipps is a freelance writer.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Gorman: McConnells owned ‘The Pete’
- High school notebook: Attendance up at WPIAL basketball title games
- HS highlight reel: PIAA spring sports season underway
- Burrell girls basketball team plans PIAA rebound
- Redbank Valley boys claim 1st District 9 title since 1980
- Playoff experience could pay dividends for Butler basketball team
- Cal saw both sides of WPIAL’s ‘play-in bracket’
- PIAA basketball playoff brackets set
- Four BVA wrestlers advance to PIAA finals
- Late 3-pointer sends Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic girls to finals
- McConnell’s 34 points fuel Chartiers Valley’s victory in Class AAAA title game