A head above the rest: Matt Kyle ’08

TH: You’re going to hate me for this, but I guess it’s how every article about Matt Kyle is going to start off. What’s it like standing tall at 6 feet 11 inches?

MK: Off the court, it’s every conversation starter. Regardless of what people are interested in, they want to talk to you about your height. Growing up, I was always expected to be good at basketball, and it’s definitely an advantage on the court. I’m always looking down on people, and very rarely do I look at someone eye to eye. The only time I’ve looked up was when I met [NBA center] Dikembe Mutombo.

TH: Were you always the big kid in gym class back in the day?

MK: I was always the tallest. In sixth grade, there was one kid that was taller than me. He was 6’1” and I was 6’0”. Then, he stopped growing and I kept going.

TH: You used to play professionally the video game “Counter Strike” and were on a competitive team as well. Do the two worlds of video gaming and athletics mesh together, if at all?

MK: I was a better video-game player because I played sports. I was the leader of my team and I was good at it because I took a lot of things from basketball and athletics. That’s how I ran my team. If you weren’t playing good, you’re sitting down. To be that good in video games, you really had to sacrifice a lot. Some days you wanted to go out, but you’d have to practice. I met a lot of cool people. I’m proud of it. Some people say it’s dorky, but I had a ball. I could say that I was the best in the world at something.

TH: Now on to basketball. You started off the season with huge games against Sacred Heart and Massachusetts. But ever since then, the production has gone down. What’s happened?

MK: I was playing pretty well the first four games, but then I got the flu and was in the hospital for three days. That really hurt me, and I didn’t really get out of the funk until the Oberlin game. I think it was mental. I was out of it and I lost conditioning. I feel like more teams are defending me differently. They’re taking away my strengths, so I have to rely on other things. I don’t get many shots a game anymore. I’m fouling and sitting on the bench the whole game.

TH: In the preseason, the men’s basketball team was predicted to finish second in the Ivies and challenge Cornell for the title. Now you’re sitting at 4-4 in the Ivy standings, and unless things fall perfectly in place, Yale is virtually eliminated from the championship race. How do you feel about that?

MK: It’s pretty disappointing. Our defense isn’t really where it should be. I don’t know. Maybe Casey Hughes [’07] was that good of a defender that he elevated our team to another level. Our team defense percentage is way up. When we get down on offense, we try to do it on our own and not as a team. Every day in practice we talk about it. Going into the weekend, we know what we have to do. You have to still remain positive and finish the season as strong as possible. There’s nothing more that you can do.

TH: I’ve heard that if Matt Kyle dunked more, the men’s basketball team would win more games. Fact or fiction?

MK: I saw that on JuicyCampus.com. You could say yes or you could say no. It’s harder to dunk when someone’s guarding you than people think. If someone’s pushing you just a little bit, it makes it a lot more difficult. People don’t understand. If you tried to jump as high you can in the post when someone’s on you, you just can’t do it.

TH: Who wins in a free-throw-shooting contest: Matt Kyle or Paul Nelson ’10?

MK: Recently, I’ve been shooting pretty badly, but over the weekend I was 100 percent. I would say on any given day, either of us would win. Paul is surprisingly good at free throws.

TH: He’s shooting 50 percent right now.

MK: What am I at?

TH: 48.5 percent.

MK: I have a way better field-goal percentage than my free throws. I always check that, and I’m like, “Yes, Joey Dorsey [at Memphis], I’m coming for you!”

TH: After graduation, you’ve shown interest in playing professionally in Europe. What’s motivated you to pursue that path?

MK: Going overseas and living in another culture would be something that I would really enjoy doing. Plus, you can make decent money. If I want to do it, it’d have to be now. I love to play basketball, so I might as well get paid to do it.

TH: Other Yale players like Dominick Martin ’06 and Edwin Draughan ’05 have made the jump across the Atlantic. Have you spoken with them about what it’s like overseas?

MK: I’ve talked to Dominick. He says the conditioning isn’t as hard, and that’s good.

TH: The rules in international play are different than those in the States. Are you familiar with playing under the international rules?

MK: We went over to Spain and played five games. There are minuscule differences, and it didn’t really affect how I played.

TH: For most people who follow basketball, when they think of European basketball, they think of players like Pau Gasol and Dirk Nowitzki — big men who are athletic and can shoot from behind the line. How do you think your style of play fits in the international game?

MK: In practice, I can make outside shots, but when I’m playing with this team, it’s more efficient and better for other players to shoot from outside. I make two-thirds of the shots doing what I’m doing right now.

TH: Looking back over your Yale career, what do you think of your own progression as a player? What has gotten better?

MK: When I came here, I started developing a really good post game. That’s definitely what’s changed. In high school, I would shoot outside shots. Here, it’d be hook shot, hook shot, hook shot. That’s what it was, and I was put into that role.

TH: Has there been anything that you wish you had improved during your four years here?

MK: I wish I was stronger than I am now — maybe put on 10 more pounds. But that’s really more of the offseason. It’s really hard to put on weight during the season and even to maintain it. I came in at 245 pounds, and now I’m 230 pounds.

TH: With only six more guaranteed games left in your college career, what are you doing?

MK: It’s good to run through my head what I’ve done. I just want to go to practice everyday, play as hard as I can and don’t leave any regrets … which is why I can’t foul.

TH: Now that you’re going to be trying out overseas, at what point do you think you’re going to stop playing competitive basketball?

MK: If I play next year, I’m going to put a lot of work into it. At the point where I plateau and I can do something better with my life, I’ll stop.

TH: As a senior, do you have any advice for the underclassmen on the team?

MK: Put everything into this. Don’t slack off, because when it comes senior year, I don’t want you to have any regrets.

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