Basketball has always run deep in the Vail family's blood. Born to a father who played basketball and a mom who was a cheerleader, basketball has become a family tradition for Matt Vail.
Vail is a native New Mexican from the Navajo reservation. He graduated from Grants High School where he played under head coach Joseph Sanchez. In the midst of his high school basketball career, Vail earned various impressive achievements including District Player of the Year, First Team All-State, Academic All-State, MVP for the New Mexico vs. Arizona matchup, and many others. His love for the game went beyond his high school team. In his offseason, Vail played for the Bairstow Boomers and New Mexico Select before moving on to the collegiate level.
Although it seems as if it is rare, walk-on athletes make up about 46% of Division I athletes. Vail is a part of that 46%. Coming from a small New Mexico town was a significant barrier that had to be overcome in making it to the Division I level. It is uncommon for scouts and recruiters to look for athletes in small New Mexico towns so Vail had to take a different route into collegiate athletics. This past August, Vail was welcomed to the pack as a walk-on freshman.
Upon being added to the Lobo Basketball roster, Vail walked through a boundary that is many have not. Research has shown that less than 1% of NCAA athletes are Native American which makes Matt Vail the type of statistic that is impressive and honorable. When deciding on his college career path, Vail decided that he didn't want to settle for a junior college if he had an opportunity at a four-year university. He was passionate about the fan base in New Mexico and the history of basketball with UNM. He saw an opportunity to be a part of something bigger that could help him break down more boundaries and he took that opportunity.
Since the start of his journey as a Lobo, Vail has experienced what it means to carry that title. It's an honor to him that others around him look up to him and support him. That honor is something that motivates him to stay in the gym and keep on top of his grades; the two things that he finds are the most important. Vail is excited for the opportunity to work towards for his degree and especially to work towards his ultimate goal of playing with the NBA. Without the opportunities that UNM, his coaches, his supporters, and his family has helped give him, he wouldn't be able to pursue his passions. For that, he sends his deepest thanks to each person that has supported him every step of the way.