This past month, LMU men's basketball received a boost for the 2020-21 season when it was announced that center Mattias Markusson would be returning to the team for his senior season.
Before this news broke, the 7-foot-3 Swede was on the hunt for a new school after entering the transfer portal. Markusson attributed the decision to consider leaving the Bluff due to the initial uncertainty regarding the men’s head coaching situation. Back at the beginning of March, Craig Pintens, the University's athletic director, announced that the team had agreed with head coach Mike Dunlap to part ways. Markusson explained how he wanted assurance that whatever coach LMU hired would believe in the value of big men.
“That was mostly just we didn’t have a head coach at that time. So I had no idea who we were going to get either," said Markusson. "I am just trying to be ahead of the game. I don’t want to be here if we have a coach that’s not buying in on playing big guys.”
Just a couple weeks later, both LMU and Markusson received the news of who would now be leading the Lions – Stan Johnson, former associate head coach Marquette University. Johnson and his coaching staff went on to reassure Markusson of his place on the team and their plans to win now, this season, instead of rebuild.
"We had a lot of good conversations about the goal for this year," said Markusson. "One of his biggest things is that this upcoming year, it’s not going to be a rebuild year or anything. We have a good base, we have good talents and good people in our team so we’re ready to make an impact right away.”
Markusson also spoke to how the team itself factored into his decision to stay. Not only had the right coaching staff and opportunities to win been put into place, but the comradery of his teammates also lead him to gravitate back to the University.
“Probably the biggest thing is the team we have. All the guys on the court and off the court, it’s the best team I’ve been around at LMU. Everybody is positive, we all know each other, it’s like one big family. There are no guys who are kind of sticking to themselves or kind of outside the circle. We are all very connected.”
Redshirting this past season for private reasons, Markusson’s last season came in 2018-19, when the team had its best season since 1990. The Lions won 22 games, posted a winning percentage of .647 and even made a postseason appearance at the College Basketball Invitational tournament.
Markusson was a consistent starter on the team that year, making the starting five in 33 of LMU’s 34 games. Making his daunting presence felt in the paint, the center averaged about 10 points and six rebounds per game. Throughout his three seasons with the program, the Swede has recorded a total of 673 points and 449 rebounds.
Now looking forward to his last season, Markusson reflects on his time spent on the University and the type of mark he wants to make on the program when his time with it concludes.
“I just want to be one of those guys who made an impact on this program in terms of building this up again," said Markusson. "We have had a lot of years where it’s been a struggle basketball wise. And I think the last few years we’ve been slowly getting better and better. And my last year I just want to be as good as possible.”