Matthew Godley gave up on basketball for three years, looking to pursue a career in auto racing instead.
Having seen success as a driver since age 9 in Bandoleros, Legends and late-model series, it seemed like the logical choice. Then the economy took a downfall.
"Some of my sponsors had to back out," said Godley. "But I took advantage of another opportunity that seemed a little dark. I picked basketball back up."
After struggling though injuries and having to catch up to his peers' more-developed skill sets, the Cannon senior, who leads the Cougars with his 19 points per game average, is finally seeing the switch pay off.
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"He's played some incredibly strong basketball," said Cougars' basketball coach Glen Taylor.
"Matt's obviously been our leader, the guy we lean on the most offensively, defensively, emotionally."
Godley has become Cannon's go-to player after junior point guard Alec Wintering, a Division I prospect who averaged 18 points per game for the Cougars, transferred out of the school in December.
"You have to be adaptive in this sport, take it day by day and do the best you can," said Godley, a Davidson resident. "When someone steps out, you have to step up."
Taylor said Godley has been able to stand out with his competitive and relentless spirit.
"There's nobody playing on the court that has a higher motor," said Taylor. "Matthew's always going to play hard."
He added that Godley's never-give-up mentality comes from his other passion.
"He plays basketball like a racecar driver," said Taylor. "He plays the game a little reckless."
That isn't the only mindset the speedy 19-year-old has brought over from the racetrack.
"I'm always trying to find an edge on someone by anticipating their next move," Godley said.
Taylor said he's been impressed by Godley, especially with how he's handled the past two years.
"It starts to reveal your character and what you're made of when things don't go exactly how you hoped," said Taylor.
Godley's first year back on the basketball court was short-lived last season. After starting out averaging nearly 12 points and eight rebounds a game, he tore his right anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus seven games into Cannon's season.
Even though it was a hard time, the 6-5, 200-pound forward said, it allowed him to learn more about himself.
"My drive and desire to play the game went up a tremendous amount just sitting on the sideline and seeing my teammates fight on," said Godley.
"It really struck home to me how much I love basketball and how much I wanted to play."
Continuing to hit the weight room to work on his upper-body strength while undergoing physical therapy, Godley was looking forward to his senior season.
"I never lost sight," he said. "I always had my head high."
The start of Godley's year was again ridden by health issues.
"It wasn't exactly how I had imagined it going into the season, having to battle mono and a couple of injuries here and there," he said.
Back to full strength, Godley demonstrated his scoring ability by tallying 41 points against Freedom Christian to tie Cannon's single-game scoring record. He now shares the mark with former Cougar Jarrell Eddie, who's now a sophomore starter at Virginia Tech.
Since his breakout performance, Taylor said, the unselfish Godley has taken over the team while at the same time helping his younger teammates come into their own.
Taylor singled out sophomores Jared Hamilton, who is second on the team in scoring with nearly 12 points a game, and Lucas Anderson as having developed while sharing the floor with Godley.
With a 6-17 start, including a 1-3 record in the CISAA, both Taylor and Godley said they're proud of the team and the players' attitude.
"We're not going to quit, and (we) hold each other to a high standard," said Godley. "We just come in with a chip on our shoulder and try to make the most out of our situation."
"People may look at our record and say, 'They're not very successful,' " he said. "But I think it only tells a small fraction of the story."
The coach added that aside from playing a tough schedule, which has included High Point Christian, Ravenscroft, Wesleyan Christian and Greensboro Day, the team has struggled to be consistent at times and has lost several close games.
Godley, who admits he's hasn't given up completely on racing, will play basketball at Division III Denison next year.
"I guess I'm pursuing both," he said.
Taylor said Godley has a bright future on the hardwood.
"Matthew's best basketball is well ahead of him," he said. "Because of his time away with racing and then the injury last year, he went under the radar in recruiting. But being at a place like Denison, I guarantee that he's going to be a bedrock of that program's foundation."