Though just a sophomore, Matt Farrell has emerged as one of the most polished leaders on a New Jersey basketball court. His current standing among the state’s elite comes as no surprise, considering his ever-positive attitude and strong support system at home.
The Point Pleasant Beach point guard claims his current success can be attributed to his upbringing, which involved all basketball, all day, all night, all the time.
“I’ve been playing ever since I was little,” he said. “I’d always be playing with my family. I played with my dad, with my cousins, anybody. At family parties, we’d always get challenged by the cousins, so that was always fun.”
He also points to his older brother, Bo, as a tremendous influence, citing his advice and support as two aspects of brotherly love he holds dear to his heart. “He’s pushed me to where I am today,” Mattt said of Bo, a 21-year-old who is thriving in the ROTC program at the University of Tampa.
More than anything, though, Matt’s relationship with his father, Bob, has helped his game steadily progress over the years. Bob is an assistant at national powerhouse St. Benedict's Prep and regarded as one of the most respected coaches in the region.
“When I come home we always go over things,” Matt said. “We’ll talk about the things I did well and the things I can do to get better. We go over the good, the bad.
“We’re very close, and basketball always brings us closer together. It’s always great when he comes to my games. It’s great to have a dad who knows the game so well and helps me with everything I do. He’s a great coach, and he’s helped me become a better player and person.”
Matt is an Honor Roll student who spent his freshman year as the seventh man on the varsity squad, and now he starts as a sophomore.
“This summer I worked out every day. The gyms were always open, and playing AAU really helped,” he said.
Matt, who is averaging a shade under 17 points and six assists per game for the 5-5 Garnet Gulls, played for the Raritan Roundballers during AAU season this past summer. In a couple months leading into his junior year, he will take another big step: suiting up with the storied Playaz alongside St. Benedict’s budding star Isaiah Briscoe.
And that will only add to Matt’s growth, right?
“Absolutely,” he said. “That’s just another level of basketball. I always try to watch St. Benedict’s as much as I can with my dad because doing that will only make me better in the long run. I love playing the game. I always play hard, always play for my team first, and always want to get the win, most importantly.”
Point Pleasant Beach has notched some big wins in 2011-12, but according to the program’s floor general, the best has yet to come.
“I’m excited about the future,” Matt said. “Everyone on the team worked hard this summer and everyone is working hard right now in the season. We’re never going to take anything for granted. We’re really enjoying it now.”
This leader can walk the walk and talk the talk.
Last season, the Garnet Gulls fell to rival Asbury Park three times – including once in the state playoffs, ultimately ending the squad’s season.
However, this year’s first rematch was a bit different, as Point Pleasant Beach edged its rival, 62-58, on January 9. Victories midway through the campaign may not translate into postseason glory, but if nothing else, it sure helped the team’s psyche.
“When we were in the locker room afterwards, we agreed as a group that we’re young, but we’re smart,” said Matt, whose team aims to open many eyes during the Shore Conference tournament and the Group 1 state playoffs. “So we all knew that the win lifted our spirits and definitely pushed our confidence.
“Last year, it was basically us, Asbury Park and Bound Brook. After Asbury Park beat us, they went on to win everything (in the section). So that fact that we beat them this year, we believe we can make a lot of noise in the states.”
While his team keeps inching closer toward gaining more and more respectability in the Garden State, Matt has piqued the interest of several Division I colleges, too. He said he’s already been contacted by Harvard coaches. However, jumping head-first into recruiting isn’t a game he’s ready to engage in yet.
“Right now, I’m just a sophomore, so I still have a lot of time to grow,” said Matt, who’s averaging 20 points in his last three contests. “Hey, my brother always said the sky’s the limit for me.”
Everybody in the high school basketball universe is beginning to think the same, too.
Brian Fitzsimmons is the award-winning author of Celtic Pride: How Coach Kevin Boyle Took St. Patrick to the Top of High School Basketball. Contact him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @FitzWriter