Risse trying to catch up to dad

Paul VI's Matt Risse wants to win a state basketball title. His father, Rich (right), won one with Paul VI in 1983.
Paul VI's Matt Risse wants to win a state basketball title. His father, Rich (right), won one with Paul VI in 1983.
Posted: February 10, 2014

Matt Risse laughs when asked a frequent question about comparing his father's high school basketball experience to his own.

Risse, a 6-foot-5 senior wing player for Paul VI, acknowledges that from time to time his father, Rich, offers some good-natured ribbing because he has something his son desires: a state championship.

Rich Risse was a starter who averaged 17 points for a Paul VI team that won the 1983 state Parochial A title.

Now it's called the Non-Public A championship and it holds a magical grip over Matt Risse and the other six seniors on the Paul VI team who will be giving it one final try after advancing to the South Jersey final each of the last two years.

"As a kid, I heard about it all the time, and I still hear about my dad's state championship now and then," Matt Risse said, laughing. "I've been told how great it was to win it."

Risse has a burning desire to match his father. The cutoff date for seeding was Saturday, and the tournament will begin the first week of March.

Paul VI lost in each of the last two seasons in the South Jersey Non-Public A final to St. Joseph of Metuchen, a team that features 7-foot University of Kentucky recruit Karl Downs. Last year, Paul VI lost, 76-69, in the final after leading by eight points at halftime.

Metuchen is expected to be the top seed and will be very difficult to dethrone in a South Jersey Non-Public A field that is simply loaded.

St. Augustine was considered a year away when the season began, but the Hermits beat two-time defending state Group 4 champion Atlantic City recently. In addition, Bishop Eustace, which handed Paul VI its first loss, must be accounted for. Nobody should ever count out perennial contender Christian Brothers Academy, either.

Risse entered the weekend with 981 career points and a season average of 13.4 for a Paul VI team that won 14 of its first 15 games and is ranked No. 1 in South Jersey by The Inquirer.

"I took it for granted the last two years because I knew another year to come again," Risse said. ". . . Last year, I thought we had it, and that was probably the most upsetting loss I have ever had."

And nobody will be cheering more for another state title than Rich Risse. He said the feeling from winning a state championship still resonates so positively today.

"It's a great memory, and I still keep in touch with many of the players, still hang out," Rich Risse said. "I hope Matt and his group can have the same experience we had 30 years later."

One of Rich Risse's teammates on that championship team was point guard Matt Brady, now the head coach of James Madison University. Matt Risse will attend James Madison as a preferred walk-on.

"I don't know anybody who could make my son better than Matt Brady," Rich Risse said.

Matt Risse is excited about playing for a coach who competed with his father, but his thoughts of college are on hold.

First, he is attempting to help Paul VI win a fourth straight Olympic Conference National Division title. Then it will be the single-elimination state tournament.

"This is my favorite time of the year," Matt Risse said.

It's also the favorite of his father, who still has great pride over that state title earned three decades ago and would like nothing better than for his son and his son's teammates to enjoy a similar experience.



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