Baylor transfer Matthew Mayer explains decision to commit to Illini

Baylor transfer Matthew Mayer explains decision to commit to Illini

Matthew Mayer will bring a lot to Illinois basketball. But the Baylor transfer’s signature hairstyle will not make its way to Champaign.

“I already cleaned it up for the draft process,” Mayer said on The Matt Mosely Show on KRZI ESPN Central Texas on Friday. “I don’t have a mullet anymore, so it might be professional Matt now.”

Mayer won’t turn professional, withdrawing from the NBA Draft earlier this month, and will transfer to Illinois for his fifth and final season of college basketball, the 6-foot-9 transfer forward announced on Friday. The No. 12 transfer in the country according to 247SportsMayer gives a huge boost to a new-look Illini team that returns just one starter from last season.

Mayer was a key cog of the last two Baylor teams, which combined to go 55-9 (27-5 Big 12) the last two seasons and won two Big 12 championships and the 2021 NCAA Tournament championship. A long, versatile, skilled forward, Mayer two seasons ago for Baylor’s national title team averaged 8.1 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.2 steals off the bench while shooting 48.9% including 39.5% from three. Last season, Mayer started all 33 games for a Baylor team that earned a second consecutive No. 1 seed and averaged 9.8 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 0.8 blocks, though his shooting percentages dipped to 40.9 percent from the field and 32.4% from three.

Mayer chose Illinois over North Carolina, Texas Tech and Memphis. During his appearance on KRZI on Friday moments after he announced his decision on social media, Mayer said Illinois won out over runner-up Texas Tech.

“Illinois ended up being the place for me,” Mayer said. “I wanted to go to a different conference. I obviously didn’t want to disrespect Coach [Scott] Drew or Baylor in any way because I have nothing but respect for everybody over there. Illinois, they got everything. I was just actually in Illinois for a month doing the pre-draft stuff, so I know a lot about the state. They got great facilities. I know the NIL is good up there, and we’ve got a team that I think could really shock some people. It just looked like an awesome decision for me.”

Mayer will immediately slide into an Illini starting lineup that lost four starters, including All-American center Kofi Cockburn and All-Big Ten guards Trent Frazier and Alfonso Plummeras well as 2021 Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year Andre Curbelo. Mayer is the third top-80 transfer to join Illinois this offseason, joining former Baylor teammate and skilled post dain dainja (No. 77) and fellow Big 12 starter Terrence Shannon (No. 19), who averaged 11.0 points over three seasons at Texas Tech — giving Illinois the No. 2 transfer in the country currently.

The Illini also added a top-10 prep recruiting classwhich includes three top-50 prospects, according to 247Sports: guard skyey clark (No. 31), save Jayden Epps (No. 44) and wing Ty Rodgers (No. 48).

“I obviously know Terrence Shannon,” Mayer said. “He’s a great player that I’ve been playing against since I was a sophomore. I think he’s underrated. People kind of forget about him it seems like when you’re talking about some of the best players in the country. As far as the team, Dain Dainja’s obviously there. Skyy Clark’s going to be a top point guard. They’ve got a lot of talent. I think I’m just going to do there and do my best. It’s a basketball school. The Big Ten is a great conference. It’s right up there with the Big 12. Really, there wasn’t anything I didn’t like about it. It wasn’t I’d say an easy decision, but it became apparent it’s what I wanted to do.”

Mayer thought he fit in nicely with that group, likely taking a larger role than he had at Baylor the last two seasons. He also expects to play on the wing with the Illini.

“I think they just see me as an all-around guy, like at Baylor. But they want to really help me work on my body in a lot of ways,” Mayer said. “I think I’m going to be playing more of the three than the four because they’re actually kind of a big team, which is totally fine. I played the three at Baylor too. I think a little bit more guard-oriented, a little bit more on the ball and just trying to work on my body as much as possible. Probably somewhat similar role to Baylor but hopefully more minutes.”

Mayer originally declared for the NBA Draft and participated in the NBA Draft Combine this month in Chicago, but he was limited due to an unspecified injury. He said the ability to make money in college through new name, image and likeness rules influenced his decision to return to college as he continues to improve his game prior to making the professional leap.

But Mayer, whom Illinois head coach Brad Underwood recruited while at Oklahoma State, didn’t take any visits during his second recruitment, completing all communication on the phone and via Zoom. With no mullet, he took a “Professional Matt” approach to the process.

“For me, it wasn’t so much about the facility and seeing the campus; it was a business decision at this point because this is my career and this is what I want to do professionally,” Mayer said. “So it’s really about seeing what their program is about and what the players on their team and their coaches are about. Just getting to know the people was more important to me.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.