DARIEN—After becoming the all-time leading scorer in the history of the Darien boys lacrosse program in 2012, Case Matheis was rated the nation’s top incoming college freshman. He headed to Duke, the school he had committed to as a sophomore, and has more than lived up to huge expectations.
Matheis finished with 52 points as a freshman and 42 as a sophomore to help the Blue Devils win back-to-back national championships.
The Ruden Report caught up with Matheis over breakfast on Sunday to discuss his current and former teams, the newest Darien star in the family and his future goals.
The Ruden Report: You are halfway through your college career. Does it feel like it is going by really fast?
Case Matheis: It’s kind of weird thinking I’m already halfway done because I’ve had so much fun and we’ve had great years, but now it’s like I’m a junior already.
TRR: When you commit to a school as early as you did, as a high school sophomore, do you feel like you’ve been connected to Duke for more than two years?
CM: A little bit. I remember after I committed I was so excited to be going there. I was so ready to go and by the time I got to Duke it was like it’s time now, I’m here. It’s just been a cool experience.
TRR: You’ve got to be really happy, first coming in and getting playing time right away and then starting as a freshman, with the contributions you’ve already made to the team.
CM: Definitely. I’m really honored to be a starting attacker at Duke University. It’s been one of my goals from the start when I committed. I knew we had a lot of attack men ahead of me. The coaches gave me a shot and I’m just really happy to be a part of it.
TRR: Obviously it’s a big honor when you are rated the top high school recruit in the country, but maybe that comes with a price. Did you feel a burden or any pressure to perform right away?
CM: No, not really. That was kind of something when I was named that that summer, I was really happy and fortunate but the next day I moved on. When you get to a college campus wherever you are, in my case Duke, no one cares. It doesn’t really matter.
TRR: Did any of your Duke teammates tease you about it or any opponents use it for trash talking?
CM: No, no one said anything about it to me actually. Some of my friends messed around about it but it was all in good fun.
TRR: Not too many players get to win national championships their first two years. What was that like?
CM: It’s awesome. Really the Final Four is the pinnacle of our sport and I’ve been going to the Final Four every year since 2006 when I was in the 6th grade. I remember being in the stands and thinking ‘I want to be here one day.’ To be in the championship game twice is just kind of surreal to think about.
TRR: How is winning a national championship different from winning a state or FCIAC championship?
CM: A college lacrosse season is a month or two longer than the high school season. At Darien it’s kind of expected to win a state championship here. Then when you get to college everyone is a lot more even. The parity is a lot higher so it’s never a guarantee, and the amount of work you have to put in, film sessions at 11 p.m. after a loss or 12 a.m. after a loss when you get back from Maryland. There are so many little things you have to do to win a national championship, so many little things have to come together, so many little things have to work out and you need some kind of luck.
TRR: Lacrosse doesn’t get the same kind of publicity as football and basketball but you know a lot of those athletes at Duke. Do you think people realize you put in the same kind of work?
CM: We kind of pride ourselves on campus of being anonymous in a way, pride ourselves in the fact that our school, we don’t get as much press as the football or basketball teams but we work just as hard and kind of just keep it low key.
TRR: The Duke basketball team, most people seem to either love it or hate it. What do you think is the general perception of the lacrosse team?
CM: I have no idea really. There’s a lot of cool stories on our team this year. You look at a guy like Casey Carroll, who is a former Army ranger, Luke Duprey played with a torn ACL in the national championship game. I just think we do things the right way and people definitely have respect for that.
TRR: Duke has such a great reputation academically as well as athletically. What is the entire college experience at the school like?
CM: You’ll be in classes with people and you just talk to them and you hear how amazing their backgrounds are. You are really in a place where everyone is a very high achiever. It’s a good environment to be in to foster that. You can have a 3.0 GPA and be in the bottom third of your class. It’s just a lot of really bright students.
TRR: Do you still follow the Darien team closely?
CM: Yes. During the season I get pretty tied in to what I’m doing at Duke and I get tunnel vision to anything outside of school and the team. I hardly even talk to my family that much because you get so focused on lacrosse, but I am able to keep tabs on the team every now and then, watch stuff on your site and see highlights here and there and keep up with what was going on this year. It was cool to see.
TRR: Darien coach Jeff Brameier came to the Final Four to see you play. Does it mean a lot that he cares enough about you to come to your games.
CM: It does. We text every so often about what is going on in my season or his season so I have been able to stay in touch with him the last two years.
TRR: Darien just had what some think may have been the best season ever by a lacrosse team in the state, going unbeaten against such high quality competition. Is that a source of pride for you?
CM: Yes. I’ve been starting to see some of the guys this summer as I’m back in town and it’s been great to see them and giving them congratulations. It’s cool because the guys who were seniors this year were sophomores when I was a senior and guys like Peter (Lindley), Phil (Huffard), John Reed, Harry Gillespie, to see those guys come through now and make their name in Darien lacrosse… To not see any of their games was a bummer but it was cool to know I played with those guys and hopefully had an impact on them. I think it’s great what they did this year and a great year for our program.
TRR: Your sister Mariah is an emerging star with the Darien girls team that also won league and state championships. Is it nice to see the Matheis name is still prominent in the Darien lacrosse community?
CM: We’re really proud of Mariah. She had a great year and I’m really excited to see what she does her senior year.
TRR: How are you similar lacrosse players and how are you different?
CM: I think we’re similar in the fact we are usually some of the smaller players on the field and we have to rely on quickness to excel. That’s how we’re similar. How we’re different is she’s a lefty and I’m a righty. I can’t really think of any other major differences.
TRR: Do you think she feels any pressure because of the success you have had?
CM: I don’t know. If there is any pressure she’s handling it perfectly because she doesn’t show it.
TRR: You just got back from a quick term abroad in Italy. What are you doing for the rest of the summer?
CM: I’m working at a consulting firm in New York City and working out a lot, working on my shot.
TRR: What do you hope to do after college?
CM: I have no idea. A career in finance is something I would definitely consider. I would like to see if I can continue playing lacrosse as well but as far as what’s going to happen after I graduate, I haven’t even gotten there yet. I’m just enjoying the next two years and when it is time to start thinking about my future, I will.
TRR: Is college going by too fast?
CM: Yes it is. It definitely is.
TRR: You have won two national championships your first two years. Now anything less will be a disappointment. How does that shape your perspective?
CM: If anything, having won two years now, there was a kind of feeling my freshman year, before we made it to the Final Four, you kind of get worried that you just want to play in a Final Four just once because it is the pinnacle of the sport. You just want to get to that point. So there is no kind of anxiety stemming from not making the Final Four, because I’ve been there. But having won those two years, if anything it makes you appreciate the process, what the reward is at the end of the tunnel, so when it gets tough out there it makes you work harder. I’ve experienced the euphoric feeling at the end of seasons and I just want to get there again. Winning a championship is the culmination of all the hard work your team puts in and anything less would be a disappointment.