This is the second of a series pertaining to players and administration involved with the Dodge City Legend, a former summer professional basketball team in the United States Basketball League that played at the Civic Center for eight seasons. The Legend won three USBL titles and six regular season titles during the franchise's run.
One of the first returning players to the Dodge City Legend was a guard from what was known then as Southwest Texas State.
Guard Donte Mathis spent his time as a rookie soaking up every bit of knowledge on the 2000 Legend squad that won the organization's first United States Basketball League to making his mark leading the second team to an improbable return to the USBL championship game after a 15-15 regular season.
"The first year I had great guys in front of me who led by example," Mathis said about his two summer stint with the Legend. "The biggest thing is that they were winners, they played, talked, and practiced like it too, they competed everyday and being around that was contagious for me."
Kent Davison was the head coach of the Legend both years in Dodge City. The guard took to heart many of the lessons the coach gave during his time on the court and felt he was given a blessing to have Davison as his mentor.
"The first year was more memorable because of the principles I learned that year I've used all my career and I've experienced a lot of success with doing so," Mathis said. "Coach Davison was one of the best coaches I've ever encountered. To this day, I still consider him one of the best."
The guard also put rookie guards Tyson Patterson and Jeff Boese under his wing the second season to try to teach them the things he learned that first season; including hitting the game winning jumper at the buzzer in the Legend's 2001 USBL semifinal victory to reach the championship game after starting off as the No. 7 seed in the tournament.
"I learned how to be a professional (in Dodge City)," Mathis said. "I learned how to respect the game, not take it for granted, how to use it as a tool to experience things ad meet people who I would have otherwise never met."
The guard, like any professional basketball player, had visions of the NBA, but was also mature enough to understand there are more roads to take that would make him a success.
Mathis left the Legend after the 2001 season and has played 11 season in Europe, including the last nine in Italy, where he now has dual American-Italian citizenship. He is currently a member of Capo D'Orlando in the Italian Second Division (Lega 2).
"I love it here it Italy just because over the last decade, I've learned to appreciate all it has to offer; things I'd never see or know about if I wasn't here," Mathis said.
Some professional teams have the same type of "collegiate" following that Mathis said he felt in Dodge City.
"Definitely, but winning encourages that," Mathis said. "There was a great relationship between us and that city, you saw everybody, everyday and it was just a great atmosphere. Looking back I am very thankful to have experienced that.
"My favorite memory was bringing the championship home that first year. That was my first professional championship. In the end I would just like to be remembered as one of the first professional guys that was able to bring joy and a sense of pride to Dodge City and I'm very proud to have done that. I would like to let it be known how grateful I am again to have met some incredible people during my time there; as well as experiencing some of the best chicken wings known to man at Peppercorn's."