Dre Mathieu is a 5-11, 160-pound JUCO guard currently attending Central Arizona Community College. The Tennessee native averaged 17.1 points, 6.1 rebounds and 6.5 assists last season and was named a NJCAA first team All-American. Last week, Mathieu narrowed his list of potential schools to four, including Minnesota. The following is from an interview conducted mostly over email due to a very poor cell phone connection which Mathieu says is typical in Coolidge, Ariz. (When the call started to break up, Mathieu apologized, saying, “I’m sorry, I’m in the middle of nowhere”).

Gophers target Dre Mathieu is finally starting to feel some redemption.

“Undersized” is no longer the first thing on the 5-11 junior college guard’s scouting report, and several major programs have ignored that detail altogether, going after Mathieu aggressively.

“No doubt all my life I have felt like people underestimated me because of my height,” Mathieu said. “It feels good to get some attention. I have worked really hard to get where I am now and I’m just happy that the hard work is paying off and has got me some nice options.”

Richard Pitino’s Gophers are among those options, and after last week, on Mathieu’s final four list, despite Minnesota first reaching out to him just two weeks ago, right after the new head coach started.

Comparatively, Minnesota is very new to the game coming months after other programs first started going after Mathieu. But in the abbreviated time Pitino and Co. has been around, they’ve made quite an impression on the Tennessee native, who would be available to play right away.

“If it’s not coach [Kimani] Young calling me, it’s [Pitino],” Mathieu said. “They switch days. Every day I get a call from either one of them. Or at least a text to make sure I’m doing alright. Some days, both of them will call me. They sure are letting me know that they want me. They’re showing me a lot of interest. … No one is doing it quite as hard as they are. Everybody wants to feel wanted and I feel wanted by them. That does impress me that they are so consistently keeping in touch.”

Minnesota will be competing for Mathieu’s attention with Memphis, Ole Miss and Pepperdine – the other three scools on the list -- over the next couple of weeks. Mathieu has visited Pepperdine already, calling the campus “wonderful” and noting that head coach Marty Wilson has been recruiting him the longest. He travels to Ole Miss today for an official visit, followed by Minnesota on May 3. After that, Mathieu wants to visit Memphis right away, but he does not have a specified date yet.

When he returns, he plans to make his decision, one that would have seemed almost foreign to him a few years ago.

“Coming out of high school I felt overlooked by everyone,” Mathieu said in reference to his height. “That really motivated me a little more because nobody gave me the attention I felt I deserved.”

Because of that, Mathieu felt he had something to prove. He worked harder, he says, than he might have if he was, for example, 6-4.

“It made me have to work twice as hard as the bigger players,” he said. “Sometimes I felt I was better than some bigger guys but since they were bigger they would get a look from a school before me so that pushed me to work even harder than ever.”

He walked on at Morehead State (Kentucky), hoping to earn a scholarship. But a year later, he had fallen just short of the minutes necessary in his agreement to receive one. Disenchanted and financially frustrated, he decided to move on.

“I felt like I deserved a scholarship at Morehead -- I started the last 7 games including the conference tournament,” he said. “It was a no-brainer [to leave.] I knew I could earn a scholarship somewhere and it was pretty much set I wasn’t going to get a scholarship at Morehead. I also couldn’t have my mom paying for me to go to school another year.”

Mathieu landed at Central Arizona Community College and quickly impressed. He was named conference player of the year and a NJCAA first team All-American, earning interest from a slew of four-year programs across the country.

Whether he will ultimately choose Minnesota remains to be determined, but for now, the Gophers have quickly solidified their place near the top.

  • Mathieu on his biggest strengths as a player: “I would say my passing and leadership are my biggest strengths. I love making people better and picking my teammates up when they aren’t having a good game or what not. All the coaches I talk to say my strength is my speed though (ha ha).”