Rising star: Matayia Tellis ’21

After moving from Platteville, Wisconsin prior to her freshman year, Matayia Tellis compares and reflects on her first year of participation in West High athletics, as well as describes her future hopes as a student athlete.


Kara Wagenknecht

Design by Maddy Ephraimm.

West Side Story: Why did you start playing sports?

Matayia Tellis: I started to play sports because it brought me out to more people. I did it to basically meet new people and communicate.

WSS: Which of the sports that you play is your favorite and why?

MT: As of right now, basketball. [It’s my favorite] because I’ve been playing it since second grade, and I just love it. When I’m angry or something, I just go play basketball and shoot around.

WSS: When did you start playing basketball?

MT: I started playing basketball in second grade. That’s when I actually started [getting] better. And then third grade is when I actually started to play [competitively].

WSS: How do you think playing other sports like volleyball and running track have influenced you to be a better basketball player?

MT: For volleyball, it helps my hops when I’m playing defense or shooting the ball. And then track [helps] my speed, so I can [keep up] with [Lauren Zacharias ’19] and Audrey [Koch ’21].

WSS: How do the athletics in Wisconsin compare to here?

MT: [The athletics here] are way better. The coaches take more time to help you, and they push you way more than they did where I lived. [In Wisconsin], they focused on one player, [but] here, they work with every individual.

WSS: Who has been someone that has inspired you the most to keep playing? How have they inspired you?

MT: My mom. Even though I wanted to quit two years ago, my mom was like, ‘No, you’ve been working so hard to play basketball. You should keep doing it.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, you’re right. I’m going to keep doing it.’ She works out with me, she comes to every game and she’s just there all the time.

WSS: Do you have a motto or inspirational quote you live by?

MT: “Always work hard no matter what, because someone can take it from you.” It’s something my dad tells me all the time. When I came [to West], I was playing varsity my freshman year and I was like, “Dang, if I want to start next year, I have to work hard.” My dad has always told me that anyone can come take my spot anytime.

We knew we could [win]. When we first walked in we were like, ‘We got this game. This is ours.’”

— Matayia tellis ‘21

WSS: What was it like playing in the state game as a freshman?

MT: Wonderful. It was amazing. Looking up at the stands, I was like, “Wow, this could be us next year again.” We knew we could [win]. When we first walked in, we were like, “We got this game. This is ours.” When we actually did it, we were like, “Oh my God.” It was powerful.

WSS: How do you think the dynamic of this year’s team will be different than last years?

MT: It’s a big difference without Rachael [Saunders ’18], Logan [Cook ’18] and Emma Koch [’19] — big people we don’t have [anymore]. We are all guards and I feel like we can run a little more than last year, but other than that, I don’t know.

WSS: What are you looking forward to the most this year?

MT: Probably getting to know everyone … better, like my coaches. We have three freshmen this year, and I want to get to know them a little more.

WSS: How are the dynamics different from your club team and high school team?

MT: With my [Amateur Athletic Union] team we all know how [our teammates] play. Here, I was like, “I don’t really know how they play [or] what do they expect me to do.” We started doing fall league, and I was like, “Yeah, we got this. We can definitely play like each other.” … The only [people] I work out with here are [Zacharias] and Audrey [Koch] … When I first got here I didn’t really know how everyone played and I didn’t know if anyone would come out and talk to me.

WSS: How have the coaches at West influenced you last year during the season to keep going?

‘If it’s not your game, find something to do that helps our team.’ I know I had a lot of bad games last year and he pushed me so hard.”

— Matayia Tellis ‘21

MT: This quote that Mayer always says, “If it’s not your game, find something to do that helps our team.” I know I had a lot of bad games last year, and he pushed me so hard. He was like, “I know you can do it. I believe in you.” He’s the best coach I’ve had so far.