When a local reporter asked Preston Mattingly during his senior year in high school if he preferred basketball or baseball, the son of Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly was forthright in his response.
"I like basketball best," the younger Mattingly said. "But all of the colleges are talking to me about baseball. I think that's my most realistic choice."
It indeed appeared baseball was Mattingly's better sport after the Dodgers selected him 31st overall in the 2006 Major League draft, but the 6-foot-2 left fielder never advanced past Single-A ball in six injury-plagued professional seasons. He last played last year when the New York Yankees invited him to their minor league spring training camp but cut him before the season.
With his baseball career having stalled, Mattingly apparently will return to his first love. The 25-year-old Indiana native told the Evansville Courier & Press on Saturday he has accepted a scholarship from Lamar University and will play basketball for coach Pat Knight beginning next season.
"For any Indiana kid it would be a dream to go play for Pat Knight,” Mattingly told the newspaper. "Obviously I’m a lot older than everybody else, but I’m just one of the guys. Things worked out great."
Mattingly will bring attention to Lamar because of his pedigree and his age, but the scholarship offer he received was no publicity stunt. He averaged more than 20 points per game as a senior at Evansville Central High School in 2006 and has recently worked with his former high school coach to get back into basketball shape.
In addition to that scoring punch, Mattingly also has some ability as a trick shot artist. In this 2011 video, he dunked over a bear mascot and sank shots everywhere from the stands to the mid-court stripe.
Lamar surely would gladly take anybody who can sink a few shots in a real game. One year removed from an NCAA tournament appearance in Knight's first season at the school, the Cardinals went 3-28 last year and went 1-17 in the Southland Conference.