Yale basketball's Matt Knowling returns to Greater Hartford Pro-Am for second year

Yale basketball's Matt Knowling returns to Greater Hartford Pro-Am for second year

NEW HAVEN — Matt Knowling of Yale basketball gave a straightforward answer when asked about why it was important for him to play in the Greater Hartford Pro-Am again this year. 

“Being a local Connecticut guy, going to high school at East (Catholic) and coming here, playing college basketball in Connecticut — I thought it was important to do something where it was easy access for all Connecticut people,” Knowling said Tuesday, sitting inside the Lee Amphitheater at Payne Whitney. “Be part of the Connecticut community and give back.” 

He also knew the Pro-Am was celebrating its 25th year and would feature some great competition, he said. Knowling played sporadically last year but decided to commit to a team this season, “The Firm,” and work with coach Mike Calabrese again. 

“Everything about him just screams success,” Calabrese said. “It’s just great having him around.” 

Calabrese has coached Knowling the last two summer seasons but has watched him play since he was a sophomore at East Catholic High in Manchester. He remembers the Matt Knowling who helped lead the Eagles to three CCC league championships and a CIAC Division I championship in 2019 – when East Catholic went a perfect 31-0 to end the season No. 1 in the final GameTimeCT top 10 boys basketball poll.

Knowling was the GameTimeCT State Boys Basketball Player of the Year in 2020 after he led the Eagles to a 23-1 record by averaging 24 points, eight rebounds and six assists per game. Knowling's East Catholic teams were 101-5 during his time in high school.

“He’s a winner,” Yale men’s basketball coach James Jones said. “He’s going to do whatever it takes to be successful.” 

Knowling improved from an “acrobatic athlete” who Calabrese recalled as good around the basket in high school to a mid-range and perimeter threat.

Jones dubbed him as one of those “rare birds” who scores within an eight to 10 foot range. His scoring prowess and efficiency stunned him, he said. Knowling jumped from averaging 7.2 points per game his sophomore year to 13.6 points per game last season for the Bulldogs.

He's helped lead Yale to an Ivy League championship and win a regular season title. This past season he earned All-Ivy honors after helping lead Yale to an NIT appearance.

Overall, he’s had great experience at Yale, he said – but he’s certainly had his ups and downs. 

Yale is Yale — one of the most academically challenging universities in the world. Maintaining good grades and trying to develop as a basketball player isn’t easy, Knowling said. Luckily, he’s had the support of his family and friends throughout his journey, he added. 

“This place really brings the best out of you, academically and athletically,” he said of Yale. “Just embracing those ups and downs brings the best out of me and makes me a better person overall.”

It’s been special for him to play at a prestigious school and stay close to home, he said. He’s a homegrown Connecticut native from Ellington who has never lived anywhere else. Choosing Yale was a no-brainer, he said. 

Choosing the Pro-Am was an easy choice, too. He played against Calabrese’s son, Ian, in high school. Calabrese saw him at an East Catholic basketball game at University of Hartford last winter and asked him to join the team. He said yes immediately. 

“It means a lot,” Calabrese said. “I’m not going anywhere and I told them [Ian and Matt] that they always have a spot with me. They’re not going anywhere. Who knows? Maybe someday in 25 years, their kids will be playing in the league. That’s what it’s about.” 

Source: https://www.ctinsider.com/college/article/matt-knowling-yale-basketball-proam-18207509.php

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