Florida State (13-5, 6-2 ACC) is tied for first place with Miami (who plays with Tech – 8-10, 1-6 – on Saturday), thanks in no small part to Cleveland, who is second on team scoring ( 10.8 points per game) and third in rebounding (4.8 per game).

“Matthew is further than most of the guys we had in the freshman year,” said FSU coach Leonard Hamilton. “He’s extremely competitive, he’s very confident, he knows how to play with himself and his skills. He plays with tremendous effort and is a great defender.”

Tech coach Josh Pastner recognized these traits before his peers and gave Cleveland his first scholarship offer when he was a sophomore at Cambridge High before transferring to Pace Academy. Cleveland’s father, Ralph, recalls the family being invited to visit campus. In the end, Pastner and assistant coach Julian Swartz snuggled up to each other and then made the offer. Ralph was shocked and speechless when his son received an offer from his and his wife’s alma mater.

“It was surreal, it really was,” said Ralph Cleveland. “I am forever grateful and thankful to the coaches there for taking the time to get to know him. It was surreal.”

Cleveland, whose stocks skyrocketed in the summer leading up to his junior year and became a five-star contender, ranked 25th in his class (247Sports Composite). Cleveland considered Tech and had the Yellow Jackets in his top 10 before dropping them out of his last five from Florida State, Stanford, Kansas, Michigan and NC State. Pastner and his staff recruited him tirelessly.

“I love her,” Cleveland said. “There is just a homely atmosphere. They’re just really, really good people overall.”

Pastner said, “Matthew Cleveland is such a phenomenal young man and his parents are amazing.”

Florida State won when Cleveland joined Metro Atlanta’s Legion of Seminoles, which included Toney Douglas, Malik Beasley and MJ Walker among others, another victory for Seminole assistant Charlton Young, a former technical assistant on Coach Paul’s staff Hewitt.

“The people and the coaches made me comfortable,” Cleveland said. “They made me feel at home.”

Another factor – after basketball, Cleveland wants to go to law school and become an FBI agent. Cleveland was fascinated by the state of Florida’s nationally recognized criminology program. He’s already taking a class in the degree.

“Typically, when they assign metrics, it feels like homework,” Cleveland said. “But in this class, it just feels like an extracurricular activity that I get to study. It’s been fun so far.”

Cleveland’s parents are thrilled so far. You see him growing as a leader and comfortable in his environment.

“I feel like my game was really good,” Matthew said. “I wouldn’t say it was easy but it was a good experience just with my teammates who helped me feel comfortable, learn offense, learn defense.”

Ralph admitted that it would have been exciting if her son had wanted to study engineering or management – ​​Ralph graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering and now runs his own consultancy after a career in energy; Sandra was a management major and teaches math at Heritage Elementary School in southern Fulton County — and chose Tech.

“But he has other interests and passions and as parents we all want to support our children and help them become the very best version of themselves and that means you have to choose a school that allows them to do that too,” said Ralph Cleveland. “The state of Florida was just a great fit for all of those things.”

It doesn’t change the Clevelands’ loyalty to Tech. Ralph was a member of the Advisory Board of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering. Sandra was a member of the Goldrush dance team. When Matthew was a boy, the family owned season tickets to football. Matthew’s understanding of what it means to be a tech supporter was strong enough that during his recruitment he asked his parents if they would let him go to Georgia if he received a scholarship offer. (They would have, said Ralph.)

“Georgia Tech has certainly been a great experience for my wife and I,” said Ralph. “Certainly Florida State has been a great experience for Matthew so far. That’s what really counts.”