When Matt Minoff ’04 stepped onto the floor of Madison Square Garden in New York City in December, it felt like a homecoming. A native of Cherry Hill, N.J., Minoff frequented the “Mecca of Basketball” as a youngster with his family, which held New York Knicks season tickets.
Minoff played like a Garden regular in the Bulldogs’ December game against Manhattan, putting up eight points, seven rebounds, five assists, four blocks and two steals to give Yale a 70-69 overtime win on the hardwood floor that he had once admired from the stands.
“That game was amazing, and I will never forget it,” Minoff said. “It was a dream come true for me.”
As an intern this summer in New York City for the Garden’s marketing department, Minoff grew as an individual and developed as a player. Minoff has since turned into an all-purpose weapon for Yale, channeling all he learned from the summer into a breakout season this winter.
This summer, together with fellow Bulldog Justin Simon ’04, Minoff worked on raising student attendance at the Garden for college basketball games.
Over the summer, Minoff also drafted his own proposals. Among his ideas was a plan to provide charter buses for colleges that play at the Garden.
“That’s one of the things that Yale did for its students during the playoffs last year, and I thought it would work for those schools that have games at the Garden as well,” Minoff said.
While Minoff took advantage of his internship to think up new marketing schemes for the Garden, he also earned an education of an entirely different kind outside of the office. Every day after work, Minoff spent about four hours at Chelsea Piers, a sports complex at the southwest end of Manhattan. Together with Simon, Minoff lifted, ran and played pick-up games to improve his basketball skills.
As part of his regimen, Minoff also played in the Nike Pro City league, an NCAA-sanctioned pro-amateur summer league. The league included prominent NBA players such as Anthony Mason and famous streetballers like Skip-To-My-Lou.
“I was one of the youngest guys in the league,” Minoff said. “It was a great opportunity to test my skills against some really good guys.”
Minoff’s labors last summer are paying off this winter. This season, Minoff leads the team in rebounding, assists, steals and blocks. While he did not start in any of the 32 games he played last season, Minoff has started all but one of the Elis’ 22 games this season.
“He didn’t start games last year, but he played significant minutes,” Yale head coach James Jones said. “And he was on the floor at the end of many of our games, and that’s perhaps the best indication of what kind of player he was to us last season.”
Teammates have also noticed Minoff’s progress, and, in a season where the Bulldogs’ performance has been inconsistent, Minoff has been a consistent source of offensive output for the Elis.
“I know Matt [Minoff] worked real hard over the summer, and he’s really helped us this year,” teammate T.J. McHugh ’03 said. “Matt does a little bit of everything and I love playing with him. At the end of a game, he’s the one that’s going to get stats in every column.”
Away from basketball, Minoff focuses on his academics. Last season, the economics major won the Richard Derby Award, given to the player on the men’s basketball team with the highest GPA.
Minoff hopes that the combination of his success on the court and in the classroom will eventually land him in a professional basketball league or a law school specializing in sports law.
“One of my goals is to play professionally after school, not necessarily for the NBA but perhaps overseas,” Minoff said. “I’ve had two experiences playing overseas, and I enjoyed them very much.”