Heldt excited to be part of Marquette basketball

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Photo by Mike Cianciolo/michael.cianciolo@marquette.edu

Photo by Mike Cianciolo/michael.cianciolo@marquette.edu

Amid the excitement of Henry Ellenson’s commitment and the enormous sense of anticipation surrounding a Marquette recruiting class that ranks in the top 10 of the country, one player continues to elude notice, not that you’d ever hear him complain about it. That player’s name is Matt Heldt and he may very well be a crucial factor in whether Marquette plays basketball deep into March next year.

Heldt is a 6-foot-10, 210 pound center hailing from Appleton, Wis., a small city located about two hours north of Milwaukee. He played his last three years of high school basketball at Neenah, where he helped guide the Rockets to the state tournament.

Heldt, considered a three-star prospect by some recruiting websites and a four-star prospect by others, verbally committed to Marquette July 1, 2014. Most top high school players forego seriously considering college offers until they’ve had the chance to increase their profile through summer AAU tournaments, but Heldt is an exception to that rule.

“I knew Marquette was the place I wanted to be,” Heldt said. “I talked to coach (Steve Wojciechowski) several times and I visited there a few times. I’d also been to other places like Michigan State and Davidson, so I kind of knew what I was looking for and I knew that Marquette had the most to offer me.”

But it was another school that appeared to have the pole position in the race to land the Appleton big man. Heldt had visited Davidson just a few weeks before his commitment to Marquette and liked what he saw. In fact, Neenah coach Scott Bork told the Appleton Star-Crescent if Wojciechowski wasn’t at Marquette, he “might have committed at dinner” that very night. However, Wojciechowski eventually won Heldt over.

“He cares about us, not just as players, but as people,” Heldt said about Wojciechowski. “He’s just a great coach.”

Heldt is a strong, athletic rebounder who can run the floor with ease. He can use both hands with such aptitude that scouts who came to see Heldt, a righty, thought that he was left-handed. He also has a soft shooting touch, something Bork was clearly proud to point out.

“His shot is good; he’s got a nice release and a soft touch,” Bork said. “For a kid that grew up playing in the post, he’s worked on it a lot. When we do our shooting drills, he goes against our two best shooters. He chooses to compete against the best… and it’s his way to continue to motivate himself.”

Bork previously suggested Marquette may use Heldt as a stretch power forward rather than a center to get him open for jumpers, while also creating driving lanes for the guards. Heldt appears to be receptive to the idea; when asked which NBA player his style most closely correlates to, Heldt said “maybe Kevin Love or Dirk Nowitzki,” both of whom are paradigm cases of jump-shooting power forwards. However, as strange as it sounds, Heldt may need to be more selfish to excel in this new role.

“There are a lot of times when coach Bork would tell me that I pass too much,” Heldt said.

Bork corroborates that story, although he is quick to point out Heldt would often get double or triple teamed in the post, thus opening opportunities for the other four players on the floor.

“He made all of his teammates better,” Bork said.

Despite the frequent double-teams, Heldt earned Fox Valley Association player of the year honors and made first team All-State in Wisconsin. He nearly averaged a double-double for the season, tallying 19.1 points per game and 8.9 rebounds per game. He also shot an impressive 68.2 percent from the field.

However, while Heldt may be best known for his basketball acumen, it is his community involvement that won the admiration of Bork.

“We have a number of basketball clinics we run for the young kids throughout the year, and Matt’s always the first one to volunteer to help run those,” Bork said. “When our guys go back out on the court at the end of games, he’s always one of the first ones back out. He’ll stop and talk to the little kids and give them a high-five or sign autographs. He gets the fact that he’s in a rare situation where he can have an impact on somebody, and that’s important to him.”

Heldt says that he hopes to continue his off-court involvement at Marquette.

“I think it’s great to give back,” Heldt said. “A lot of people watch us on TV, but the giving back part is something that not a lot of college basketball players do, and I think that’s really important.”

As for academics, Heldt plans to major in psychology and wants to become either an industrial organizational psychologist or a clinical psychologist. Heldt said his main goal off the hardwood is to graduate from Marquette.

“Even if I do get the chance to leave early and go professional, I’d still want to graduate,” Heldt said. “Basketball doesn’t last forever, but a degree does. After I play basketball, I still want to be able to get a good job.”

With Heldt’s high school career all but wrapped up and his tenure at Marquette set to begin in just a few months, there was only one more thing for Heldt to attend to. After he gave a verbal commitment to the Golden Eagles last summer, Heldt confessed to the Appleton Star-Crescent he only owned one Marquette shirt. How many does he own now?

“About 10,” Heldt said. “My mom said when I was getting all this gear, ‘What if you don’t end up liking it there?’ I just told her, ‘Mom, I’m going to love it.’”

This is the first part of a five-part Marquette Wire Sports series on the men’s basketball recruits for next season. 

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