By Kierra Pixler, Managing Editor
“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope, where once there was only despair.”
Famed philanthropist Nelson Mandela once said that, and to this day, it stands true. Former UMHB basketball player Matthew Caskey lives by those words and now travels around the world spreading the message of hope and the gospel to kids in various countries.
“The traveling with regard to basketball began with PiP (Players in Progress),” Caskey said. “We would mostly travel around the state to do special performances at basketball halftime shows and other events. When I was in second grade, that summer, I was selected to travel with an all-star group of other PiP kids to travel to Australia for a two week, seven-city tour, performing at the halftime games of their professional league. It was my first international trip and an experience of a lifetime!”
Caskey grew up in Florence and moved to Salado in 8th grade after being recruited by a parent who coached an AAU team in Salado. After graduating from Salado, he enrolled in Temple College on a basketball scholarship and played his last two years at UMHB where he pursued a math degree as a self-proclaimed “numbers guy.”
“Playing at UMHB almost didn’t happen,” Caskey said. “I have been a lifelong Texas Longhorn fan and my sophomore year in college at TC, I broke my ankle and was out the second half of the season, which is when a lot of recruiting opportunities come about for junior college players. I got accepted to UT and was planning on just attending school there, but then my two roommates both decided to go play at UMHB, so I decided to follow them there.”
During Caskey’s first year at UMHB, they won UMHB’s first conference championship in its history and were one of the best teams in the country, losing on a buzzer beater in the NCAA tournament. Having played under Coach Ken DeWeese, he credits his former basketball coach for leaving a profound and lasting effect on his life.
In 2017, Caskey joined Hoops for Hope, an organization that aims to teach basketball skills with a message of hope. He has traveled as far as Puerto Maldonado, Peru, Madrid, Spain and Buenos Aires, Argentina and has learned the importance of open-mindedness in cross-cultural communication. Making an impact and the message that is attached when doing so is what’s most important to Caskey.
“The Lord has blessed me beyond imagination, in life, and have had some phenomenal people in my life that have helped me get to where I am,” Caskey said. “I’ve had my high highs and very low lows, but I truly figured out what my passion is. It’s being able to have an impact on someone else that could help positively shape their lives, give them something that exudes self-confidence, I have no idea what kind of snowball effect that might have on someone, and that’s a feeling that is indescribable. It’s way bigger than me, and I believe it’s what you leave behind, your impact on others, after you’re gone, that’s most important in life.”
Focusing on building his brand and turning his passion into a career, Caskey was recently selected to perform in Las Vegas for a week at a consumer electronics trade show.
“One of my old teammates sent me a screenshot of a posting looking for a basketball entertainer to do performances and crowd interaction at a big electronics trade show,” Caskey said. “So I submitted my resume and was selected for the gig. I had no idea what kind of event it was, but it turns out I’ll be representing TCL, the fastest growing TV company in America. I’m extremely excited about the opportunity and what will come from that.”