By Mike Zummo
At some point, Mat Shea is going to have to choose between football and basketball.
That point hasn’t come yet as the Wallkill Senior High School senior has signed to continue playing both football and basketball at Kiski Prep, an all-boys prep school in Saltsburg, PA, about 30 miles outside of Pittsburgh.
“Their interest in me was a huge component in my decision to commit,” Shea said. “Their interest in me for football was huge because I wanted to play at the next level.”
Shea was a key component in the resurgence of both the Panthers’ football and boys’ basketball programs.
During the fall, he led the Panthers to the Section 9 Class A Division 2 championship and a berth in the sectional semifinals, where they fell to the eventual Section 9 champions, the Minisink Valley Warriors.
“He’s a leader,” former Wallkill football coach Brian Vegliando said.
“He’s competitive. He’s a hard worker. He’s obviously athletic. He can make plays dynamic as a quarterback. He can make plays with the ball in his hands and can find the right people to get the ball and make plays if the play breaks down. He did great things for us.”
He did great things on the basketball court as well.
He scored his 1,000th point earlier this season and helped the Panthers to their first Mid Hudson Athletic League championship in about 30 years. The Panthers earned the second seed in the Section 9 Class A championships before falling to top-seeded Goshen in the finals.
“He was so locked in,” Wallkill basketball coach Hunter Andrews said. “He was one of the first guys in the gym every day. He was always staying after to get shots up. His dedication to basketball was unlike any other player that I’ve coached. I know it was the same with football coach Vegliando.”
Shea made the decision sound so easy. They needed a quarterback, and he needed a place to play.
But it wasn’t about just football and he had options to play just basketball at a college, but he wanted to continue with both. Basketball was first, but he loves football just as much.
“That was huge,” Shea said. “I could have went to schools that were more basketball oriented for basketball, but I wanted to be able to play another year of football. Having a school that needed a quarterback was huge for me. I know that basketball is just as huge for me. I’m confident in being able to play basketball anywhere.”
One sport, however, did fall by the wayside.
He had previously been a member of the Panthers’ boys’ lacrosse team, playing the midfield. He gave it up this year as his post-high school career begins to take shape.
“I decided it’s not worth the risk of injury,” Shea said. “I think I could be spending my time a little better (preparing for the future).”
Both of Kiski’s programs are getting a competitor who likes to win, and he’s taken two programs on his back and helped bring them back to prominence.
“Even before his freshman year, he’s had great edge and competitive nature to him,” Andrews said. “He wants to get better; he wants to learn, and he’s a great teammate, too. He loves the game. He loves his team. He’s very passionate and I think that was pretty visible on the court.”
It’s all going to hold a special place in his memories. Andrews pointed to not only Shea, but his entire class as special.
He had a special senior year and it’s easy to see he will miss his fellow Panthers when he moves on.
“(I’ll miss) just being with the kids that I grew up with, and was silly with them,” Shea said. “It’s something that you can never get back. I know that, but I’ve had the time of my life over the last few years playing with them.”
He also knows that the day will come when he’s going to have to choose. That day is not here yet, but he knows it’s coming.
“Whichever opportunity presents itself to me, to my liking for college,” Shea said. “I’m not sure right now. I couldn’t give you the answer right now, but whatever opportunity presents itself better to me. Then, I’ll make my decision.”