Through all the workouts, through the countless drills, Matt Cimino always heard his late father Michael’s voice.
“He always told me,’’ said Matt Cimino, “there is no elevator to success, you have to take the stairs.’’
And for Matt Cimino, those stairs have led him far. Cimino, a Falmouth native who attended Worcester (Mass.)Academy the last three years, has verbally committed to George Washington University. The Colonials play in the Atlantic 10 Conference and went 24-9, losing in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
“It’s a great program and a great academic school,’’ said Cimino. “I’m there to get an education. And I have great relationships with the coaches and the people at the school.
“I wanted to go somewhere where I was wanted and needed. That’s what I felt here.’’
Mike Lonergan, the Colonials’ coach, cannot comment on Cimino until he signs his letter of intent. The next NCAA signing period begins April 16.
But Jamie Sullivan, Cimino’s coach at Worcester Academy, believes Cimino not only made a great choice but has a chance to become something special. Cimino – the nation’s 138th-best recruit according to Rivals.com – is listed at 6-foot-9 with the ability to shoot from outside.
“With Matt it’s not a question of if he’s going to be good, but when,’’ said Sullivan. “He has worked extremely hard off the court on his body because that’s going to be his most important asset, his body. We’ve worked hard with him on strength and conditioning, and nutrition.
“When Matt becomes one of the best-conditioned athletes on the team and puts on 20 pounds, you could have someone from Maine making it big time. Matt has a very high skill level.’’
Cimino was born into a basketball family. His sisters played in college, Ashley at Stanford (on four Final Four teams) and Caitlin at Connecticut College. He took to the sport quickly.
He played at Cheverus for Bob Brown for two years, then transferred to Worcester Academy, which has a history of producing top-notch talent. Five former Hilltoppers went on to the NBA, including Cleveland Cavaliers guard Jarrett Jack. Two of its graduates are coaching in the NBA: Rick Carlisle at Dallas and Mike Malone in Sacramento. Another, Donn Nelson, is the president of basketball operations for the Mavericks.
But it wasn’t only the basketball tradition that lured Cimino to Worcester Academy.
“It was a very hard decision,’’ said Cimino. “Cheverus has a reputation as a great school but the best thing about it is the community. Everyone there is very close.
“But I figured (going to prep school) would prepare me for college. And I’m glad I made the choice. Living away from home, playing against this level of competition all year, has been great for me’’
Sullivan has seen Cimino grow in many ways.
“Literally, he has only grown one inch,’’ said Sullivan. “But as a young man, coming in, he has grown so much in all ways: his approach to the game, his academics, socially. He’s always been a good student, he’s always been a good kid, but he really strengthened his academics here, taking classes that took him out of his comfort zone.’’
On the court, they made Cimino tougher.
While he could still play on the wing, and is projected to play there by many scouting services, Sullivan had him play with his back to the basket.
Cimino averaged 13.8 points to go with 8.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game for the Hilltoppers (12-16).
Cimino said he has relied a lot on his sister, Ashley, since his father died in 2008. She helped him through the recruiting process – which included offers from Georgia and Georgia Tech – as well as his overall game.
Sullivan said Cimino can take his basketball career as far as he wants. “His ceiling is very high,’’ he said.
For now, Cimino just wants to keep improving.
“For me, it’s never been about reaching a certain level,’’ he said. “It’s always been about being the best player I can be.’’
Mike Lowe can be reached at 791-6422 or at: