Can a D-III College Player Survive in the NBA?

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterDecember 6, 2012

If for whatever reason you don't follow D-III hoops, you might be unaware of A.J. Matthews, Farmingdale State center and NBA prospect.

Ineligible for D-I or D-II because of his academic struggles, Matthews ended up on Long Island after months of bouncing round.

When referring earlier to Matthews as an NBA prospect, that title was meant with purpose. According to Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo! Sports, scouts from the Wizards, Nets, Knicks and Pacers are all prepared to pay him a visit.

However you don't have to be a veteran scout to recognize his potential. Matthews is 7'1'' and explosive. He stands out like a D-I player in a D-III game, because that's precisely what he is.

Cincinnati and Oklahoma State were reportedly interested before finding out his grades wouldn't allow him to play D-I ball.

Division-III prospects haven't had a lot of success in the NBA, no less making it there in the first place. The only name you're likely to recognize is Devean George, who managed to survive 11 years in the league with a 5.6 points-per-game average.

Mathews didn't pick up the game until high school, so he's years away from showing us what he can do. This actually improves the odds that a team takes a chance on him. The idea that he hasn't stunk yet against top competition intensifies the curiosity level of whether he will or will not stink.

NBA teams love intrigue. Nobody wants to be the guy who passed on a hunch, only to see a direct competitor steal his thunder and strike gold.

Without a legitimate basketball foundation, scouts could view Matthews as a prospect with room to grow and a potentially high ceiling.

And as much as we'd like to think seven-footers just fall from the sky, they don't. At least not with this type of athleticism.

In order for a D-III player to survive in the NBA, half the battle will be getting there, and Matthews has a decent shot.

It costs a team nothing to take a chance in the second round or extend an invite to training camp. If you look at some of the recent NBA drafts, you'll see a whole lot of "why not" big men taken towards the back end.

"Why not" take a chance on a 7'1'' kid who just happens to be late for the party. Who knows what could happen with 24/7 individual instruction at the professional level.

No D-III players have succeeded in the NBA because no D-III players have been given the opportunity. Matthews is in rare position to have one.

Here's some video of A.J. Matthews. Decide for yourself: