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Sophomore guard Matt MacDonald chose to transfer from Fairleigh Dickinson and is heading to Penn. He will join Penn basketball on the court in 2016-17 after sitting out one year.

Credit: LarryLevanti

Penn basketball took in its first transfer in years, recruiting sophomore guard Matt MacDonald from Fairleigh Dickinson. MacDonald spoke with the Daily Pennsylvanian about the transfer process, why he chose Penn and what he will do during his year of ineligibility.

Daily Pennsylvanian: Flash back to a few years ago, you are going through the recruiting process as a high school senior. What drew you to Fairleigh Dickinson?

Matt MacDonald: Well, it was a chance to play Division I basketball, which was always my dream from the time I was a kid. My options were either to go to prep school or to go to Dickinson and I just thought it was too much of a good opportunity to pass up on to go to FDU. I had a really good relationship with one of the assistant coaches – Zak Boisvert. He was kind of like my lead recruiter and he was big in getting me there as were all the other coaches. There were a lot of things to like about it. New coach. New situation. It just felt right at the time.

DP: So after this season, when did you decide and what factors made you transfer away from FDU?

MM: I didn’t decide to transfer until, I don’t think I sat down to talk to coach [Greg] Herenda I believe it was the first week of April. First or second week of April. The main reason I decided to transfer is that it just wasn’t a fit for me, FDU. There were a lot of different factors but ultimately it just wasn’t a fit. I enjoyed my time there and I wish them the best but it just felt I could be a better fit somewhere else.

DP: After deciding to transfer, you begin the recruiting process all over again. Can you take us through the transfer process, how that starts out, how you communicate with different schools and everything that goes along with that?

MM: So you get your release. Once you get your release, schools can contact you once they have your release. So, you know, there were some schools who called FDU, got my release and from that point on they were able to contact me directly. So that’s kind of how it works and from there, a school can either reach out to me, my parents, my AAU coach, the process kind of goes from there.

DP: What were you looking for in a school this time around? I’m guessing it was different from the last search considering you had a few options in Division I.

MM: Yeah, right. I wouldn’t say I was looking for anything specific. I was obviously looking for a school that would be a good blend of academics as well as basketball and a great campus feel to it, a great college experience. In the end, I felt that Penn had too much, it had too much for me to turn down. It had so much from the academic portion of the school to the basketball, the tradition and history, to the campus being such a nice area of Philadelphia. It was all good stuff.

DP: What was your visit to Penn like? Can you take us through that?

MM: I visited as soon as I finished up school at FDU. Me and my mom went down and we visited for about two days and it was your regular official visit. All the coaches were there and they were around for the whole two days. They gave us a tour of the campus, a tour of the academic as well as the athletic facilities, got to see the Palestra, got to play pick-up with some of the guys one of the days I was there and just got to spend the time briefly with the guys. Most of them were home because school had already ended so there were only a couple that were there. Being on campus gave me a good feel. It was real beneficial and I’m looking forward to that.

DP: What were your interactions like with the specific coaches? Last time in your recruitment, you talked about an assistant who really drew you into Fairleigh Dickinson. Was there one coach who you really gelled with?

MM: I wouldn’t say there was one coach. I have a really good relationship with all of them. Prior to going on the visit, I had probably spoken with coach [Steve] Donahue and coach [Nat] Graham the most and it was funny on the visit, I wouldn’t say I was only with those two. I got to know coach [Ira] Bowman and coach [Joe] Mihalich just as well. So I think that was really cool.

I have a real good relationship with all the coaches and that was a huge factor into my decision that I could trust them. It was hard because there were a lot of schools that were recruiting me that had real good coaches and I had a good connection with some of the places that were recruiting me. But in the end, I just felt that I could trust those guys. It really wasn’t one guy. I guess it was a collective effort you could say.

DP: Was there one moment, whether it is going through different parts of campus, the first time going to the Palestra or one of your moments with the coaches, that really stands out to you that really defined the visit to Penn?

MM: There were a lot of those kind of ‘ah-ha’ moments where it’s kind of like, ‘Wow, this is a pretty special place,’ and that’s what made it an easy decision in the end. There were so many things that was just awesome to be there. If I had to pick one, it’d probably be the Palestra. I’m a huge basketball fan. I’ve been a basketball fan my whole life. The first time I was in Philadelphia other than driving through, to see the Palestra, to see all the history and you walk around the outside of the gym and you get to see all the different players who played there, the coaches that coached, it was really cool to see and it was real special to know I could be a part of that. I’m looking forward to meeting my new teammates and getting started out with those guys.

DP: Looking at your time at FDU and at your stats, it seems you excel beyond the arc, which fits quite well into coach Donahue’s system. How would you describe yourself as a player, particularly beyond just three-point shooting?

MM: I’ve always felt I’ve been a guy who just plays the right way and does whatever it takes to win. A lot of people, they just label me as just a shooter, that’s my role. I’m tring to do whatever it takes to win, whether that’s the little things, if that’s being a good passer, if that’s being a good teammate, always staying ready and always doing whatever coach asks. I’ve always tried to do that so I think I can bring a lot to the table but I do have to rely on my teammates a lot. Without those guys, I’m nothing.

DP: When deciding to transfer, you forgo the ability to play for a year. Was that a tough decision? What are you going to do in your first year at Penn, considering you won’t be able to play in games?

MM: That was the case anywhere I transferred so if I was going to transfer Division I, I was going to have to sit out a year. It has its pros and cons. The more I think about it, there are more pros than cons. I think the only bad thing is that it’s natural you’re a competitor and you want to play in games. I think that come January-February and the Ivy League schedule is heating up, you’re playing Princeton, Harvard, Yale and I’m not able to play, that will be tough.

From the standpoint of skills and being able to work on my game, work on my body in the weight room, just being able to do skill development, I think that will help my game and the longer I’m in the weight room, I’ve never had the opportunity before so I’m looking forward to it. I’m real excited definitely.

DP: Your career high point total came against now-rival Princeton. Does it make you excited to face the Tigers twice a year moving forward and how much have you been ingrained so far in Penn’s rivalry with Princeton and its other traditions?

MM: It’s funny. I actually didn’t even, and I hope this doesn’t sound too bad, I didn’t even really know that Princeton and Penn was such a rivalry until I got to the Palestra and they have a tally of all the games. I think the tally was Penn has 120-something wins and Princeton had like something around 102. That was the first time I was like, “Wow. This is a big deal.” There’s so much history and they go way back with all the games. Usually they would decide the Ivy League championship.

I guess it’s kind of cool. I don’t know if it says anything that my career high is against them. I think that’s funny how it worked out. We’ll be a good team and rivalry games are always tough, whether you’re in high school and you’re always ready for your rivalry games. I think it will be just like that at Penn-Princeton. You’ll be certainly jacked up and you’ve just got to be ready to go all the time.

DP: What have you studying at Fairleigh Dickinson and what are you looking to study and major in at Penn?

MM: At FDU, I majored in sports administration. I’m switching my major at Penn to communications. So I don’t have a clear-cut idea of what exactly I want to do just yet but I think I want to work in the sports industry somehow and I think a communications degree from Penn would be beneficial to my next step in life after basketball’s done.

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