Thursday, November 30, 2000

Moeller star upholds family tradition

Sylvester follows dad's footsteps

By Dave Goldstein
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[photo] Matt Sylvester comes from one of Cincinnati's best-known athletic families.
(Mike Simons photo)
| ZOOM |
        Matt Sylvester has had a basketball in his hands since he was a baby, so it makes sense that he can do just about anything he wants with one now.

        Sylvester, a versatile 6-foot-7 senior at Moeller, is considered the best high school basketball player in Cincinnati — an honor he seemingly was born to receive. His father, Mike Sylvester, was also a star at Moeller and played professionally for 17 seasons in Italy. He taught his son the perimeter skills not often associated with players his size, and now Moeller coach Carl Kremer has given Matt the freedom to flourish, not confining his star to the inside.

        “If he gets the rebound, he knows he's allowed to just go with it,” Kremer said. “He'll play what we call the four spot, but he'll handle the ball, post up and shoot 3s as well. He plays all facets of the game.”

        Sylvester became a varsity starter in his sophomore year and began showing a knack for excelling in big games. He had a game-winning, buzzer-beating tip in the state semifinals and then scored 16 points in the state championship game, which Moeller won.

        “Matt had a pretty average freshman year, and he wasn't a great practice player in his sophomore year,” Kremer said. “But when we asked him to do a lot, in our toughest games, he played his best. The great ones have that ability.”

        Sylvester said he owes a great deal of that to his father. When Mike Sylvester played in Italy, his family went with him. It was during those years (from ages 6 months to 8 years) that Matt decided he wanted to play basketball for a living - and that Mike decided there would be no babying his son if the goal was to be reached. Both agree that father has been son's biggest critic — and his best influence.

        Matt is joining the family's tradition of athletic excellence. His uncle Steve played for the Oakland Raiders, and his uncle Vince played football at the University of Cincinnati. Matt said that tradition is more a source of inspiration than of pressure.

        “I'm a Sylvester, a well-known name here,” Matt said. “I don't want to walk off the court and have people saying: "Oh, that's the Sylvester kid. People say he's the best in Cincinnati, but I don't think he's much.' I don't want to leave doubts in anyone's mind.”

        Sylvester doubted himself once. Invited to compete in the Nike All-America basketball camp after his sophomore season, he felt physically overmatched. But he eventually scored 24 points in a game, convincing himself he belonged.

        Matt announced in July he will attend Ohio State.

        As a junior last season, Sylvester averaged 21 points and seven rebounds a game and was named first-team all-city, but Moeller went just 10-11.

        Kremer said this season Sylvester will be tempted to try to do too much. He also said he's confident Sylvester will improve as a senior.

        That's because Sylvester isn't satisfied with one title and his individual accolades.

        “I want to go out and score more points than anyone else on the court, get more rebounds than anyone else and just try to dominate the game,” he said. “We've won the state championship, but I was a sophomore, so that really wasn't my team. I want people to say I won it as a sophomore and was led, and I won it as a senior and was the leader. That would mean a lot to me.”

Top returning players


        • Noah Allen, Cincinnati CD, Sr., 6-5, 190, 19.0

        • Malcolm Andrews, Western Hills, Sr., 5-11, 159, 11.2

        • Joel Cornette, St. Xavier, Sr., 6-7, 200, 9.0

        • Mike Ferris, Colerain, Sr., 6-1, 195, 18.0

        • Branden Fisher, Mariemont, Sr.,6-3, 185, 18.5

        • Josh Hausfeld, Roger Bacon, Jr.,6-2, 175, 19.0

        • Robert Hite, Winton Woods, Jr.,6-2, 175, 15.9

        • Ryan Holmes, Talawanda, Sr.,6-2, 200, 16.4

        • Danny Horace, Western Hills, Sr.,6-8, 230, 16.7

        • Keith Jackson, Purcell Marian, Sr., 6-5, 195, 16.0

        • P.J. Mills, Winton Woods, Sr., 6-7, 210, 15.7

        • Darryl Peterson, Western Hills, Sr., 6-7, 222, 17.4

        • DeForrest Riley, Winton Woods, Jr., 6-5, 190, 22.0

        • Kevin Schappell, Kings, Jr., 6-4, 180, 21.0

        • Paul Sheehy, McNicholas, Sr., 6-2, 177, 13.0

        • Matt Sylvester, Moeller, Sr., 6-7, 190, 21.0

        • Bret Underwood, Madeira, Sr., 6-4, 210, 14.6

        • David Washington, Wilmington, Sr., 5-8, 160, 16.6

        • Danny Williams, Western Brown, Sr., 6-2, 185, 15.0