Tom Piotrowski knows many of the ins and outs of playing professional basketball.

He played in several professional leagues in the 1980s and is passing off some of that knowledge to his oldest son, Mat.

But knowledge isn't the only thing Mat Piotrowski got from his father.

Mat is 7-foot-2, just one inch taller than his father. It's a clear advantage for Mat when he tries out for a professional team some time this summer.

"The one thing that makes it even more of an advantage is my dad has been my coach my whole life," said Mat by telephone last week. "He's played in the NBA and overseas and played a European big-man style, which is a skilled big man."

Mat, who concluded his college basketball career at NCAA Division I Eastern Illinois University in May, has been working hard this summer. The NBA may not be in his immediate future, but that's OK. He hopes to take a different route in professional basketball.

Mat is preparing to either play in a European league showcase game in Las Vegas or Atlanta later this month or, through his agent Gary Ebert out of Shreveport, Louisiana, contact a few European teams for a tryout some time in August.

Tom, 54, played college basketball for La Salle before he was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks in 1983. He played a season in the NBA and another in the Continental Basketball Association.

Tom coached Mat as the boys basketball coach at Atlantic Christian School until Mat graduated in 2010. Even after high school, Tom still coaches Mat and his other son Luke, who is 6-11.

Mat works with his father on the basketball court regularly. Often they can be found at Atlantic County Institute of Technology's gym in Mays Landing where Tom is a teacher and has been the boys basketball coach since 2013.

Last month, Mat met Ryan Ojeda, a local fitness trainer who works with local high school, college and pro athletes.

Ojeda's facility in the Smithville section of Galloway Township is just a short drive from where the Piotrowski's home in Port Republic. Ojeda has been working with Mat for nearly a month now.

Ojeda has taken Mat's 7-2, 265-pound frame and made it more explosive.

He's made Mat's lower body stronger and made him more agile. Tom noticed an immediate difference right away during a pickup game in Pleasantville on July 1.

"His body has changed and his lateral speed is two-fold what it previously was," Tom said. "He's moving so much more effortlessly. Not only on the floor. His bounce is a lot quicker, and he's more explosive."

Mat would love to follow in his father's footsteps.

But what he would love even more is to show why he was practically wasted on three different college basketball teams in the last five years.

"My college career I would describe as a series of unfortunate events," he said.

Looking at Mat's college stats - he averaged less than a point per game and 5.7 minutes during his senior season at Eastern Illinois - pursuing a professional career would seem like a stretch.

But Mat's size still gives him a clear advantage. Despite that, he said his three former college teams didn't utilize his size properly.

Mat began his college career at Boston University where he was redshirted for one of his two seasons. After the coach that recruited him, Pat Chambers, left for Penn State, he transferred to Southwestern Illinois College where he played one season.

Since that was a junior college and Piotrowski completed his sophomore season, he transferred to Eastern Illinois for his last two seasons of eligibility.

He was promised a bigger role at Eastern Illinois, and would definitely play more against teams with big centers, but his playing time wasn't consistent.

"I had times where I thought basketball wasn't for me," Mat said. "I had to keep pushing. Now I'm working hard and trying to make some money out of it and see where I can take it."

Tom said that his son's struggles in college could be the biggest learning tool Mat can use in his pursuit of a pro career.

"If there is anything you can take from this is that he's become thick-skinned," Tom said. "He knows how to deal with disappointment. It fueled his desire and made him tenacious.

"I think he has a very realistic view that basketball is a business and doesn't have rose-colored glasses when looking at things. That's an advantage."

Contact: 609-272-7210

Twitter @ACPress_Russo

Port Republic's Mat Piotrowski,

at 7-foot-2, looks

to play abroad

Can't get enough High School sports? Get the latest scores, game highlights and analysis delivered to your inbox each week!

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.

PLEASE BE ADVISED: Soon we will no longer integrate with Facebook for story comments. The commenting option is not going away, however, readers will need to register for a FREE site account to continue sharing their thoughts and feedback on stories. If you already have an account (i.e. current subscribers, posting in obituary guestbooks, for submitting community events), you may use that login, otherwise, you will be prompted to create a new account.

Load comments