The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Explosive showing from Matthew Mayer yields highest scoring performance of any former Illini thus far

Conor Blount
One-year Illini Matthew Mayer on the floor during his NBA 2K24 Summer League debut. After sitting for Houston’s first two games, Mayer earned a 19 point, 10 rebound double-double.

The Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder took the floor on the fifth night of Summer League boasting undefeated records. However, one-year Illini and current Rocket Matthew Mayer did not play in either of Houston’s 100-99 and 113-102 victories.

That seemed bound to change, though, when it was announced sophomore forwards Jabari Smith Jr. and Tari Eason were not returning after a pair of terrific games each. With about 60 minutes now open for the rest of Houston’s roster, it seemed Mayer may get his shot at significant minutes after all. 

Less than five minutes into the first quarter, it became a reality and the Dallas native took the floor for his very first professional minutes. Incredibly tall for his guard-like skillset, Mayer’s first counting stat was a hard fought defensive rebound that he was fouled on. A couple of more solid defensive plays followed, including a blocked midrange jumper, but ultimately it was the offensive explosion that solidified Mayer’s continued minutes.

Mayer put up four shots in less than a minute, sinking three for an quick eight points. After the stretch in question, Mayer did not take another shot for the rest of the quarter but did pick up an offensive rebound that led to an assist in the final seconds of play. 

The second quarter began with Mayer remaining on the floor, but after two minutes he got some much earned rest. Not too much though, as just over three minutes later he returned. Another flurry of points followed, with Mayer drilling a three on his first possession, assisting a teammate from yet another three and getting fouled on a three point attempt of his own. Mayer sank all three free throws and moved to 14 points on the night.

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    At halftime, Mayer had a team-high 16 points while leading 62-46 in his first time on an NBA floor. 

    The scoring cooled down in the second half, but Mayer’s defense remained ever so important for a Rockets team that often featured him as the tallest player on the court. Oklahoma City made runs, but for a majority of the second half they trailed by the better part of double-digits. When it was all said and done, the Rockets cruised to a 105-92 victory featuring a double-double from Mayer. More specifically, the 6’9 guard finished his first outing with 19 points, 10 rebounds, an assist and two blocks in 29 minutes off the bench.

    As confirmed members of the full time Rockets squad continue to drop out of Summer League, Mayer has most certainly made a big enough name for himself to warrant an important role in Houston’s next game. A starting spot may be a bit too hopeful, but Mayer’s time today reflected that of someone who will be key in the remaining days of Summer League.

    Mayer and the Rockets will be back in action at 6:00 p.m. CT on Thursday, playing against the Golden State Warriors on ESPN.


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    About the Contributor
    Conor Blount, Assistant Sports Editor
    My name is Conor Blount. I’m a junior in aerospace engineering with a minor in computer science. I joined The Daily Illini in the summer of 2022 as a beat writer for the sports section and am now one of three assistant sports editors. My first beat was women’s tennis before I moved to women’s basketball in the spring. I also had the pleasure of covering several former Illini at the 2023 NFL draft and NBA summer league. If you have any questions, I can be reached at the email below.