Out of Bounds

When he isn't chasing records on the basketball court, Matt Formato is exploring the far-flung culture of Chile, on a motorcycle

For senior Matt Formato, history is hands-on and high-energy. The political science major from the Chicago area delves into other cultures by touring ruins, climbing volcanoes, and venturing out on a motorcycle. At Kenyon, Formato makes history--by dodging opponents, slashing to the hoop, lighting up the scoreboard, and then smiling as he jogs back to the other end of the court.

A 6'1" guard on the Lords basketball team, Formato is a chipper, well-liked student-athlete who has the potential for a great senior season and the chance to become, statistically speaking, one of the best players in the history of the program. He entered his final season with 1,315 career points, making him the thirteenth highest scorer, all-time, at Kenyon.

But Formato's world isn't bounded by basketball. Far from it. Immediately after the Lords' 2004-05 season ended last February, he turned his attention fully to another passion--Spanish-speaking cultures. Within twenty-four hours of his last game, he boarded a plane for five months of study in Santiago, Chile, where he would live with a host family while attending classes at La Universidad de Chile. He also had an opportunity to visit Easter Island, which so fascinated him that he often asked to part ways with the tour groups so that he could rent a motorcycle and explore on his own.

The basketball standout, who grew up idolizing Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls, would learn that in Chile, aside from a few noncompetitive games of hoops, he would have to spend more time with a different kind of ball. "I played a lot of soccer in Santiago," he says, adding, "Most soccer is played on basketball courts with small soccer nets pulled onto them, so using the courts for basketball was hardly an option."

Formato associates soccer with his father, and with his decision to come to Kenyon. "My dad was a soccer coach, and naturally that was my first sport," he explains. "If it wasn't for him, I'm not sure how involved in sports I would be. And I know I wouldn't be at Kenyon. I threw away all the letters I got from Kenyon, without opening them, until he told me what a great school it was."

His father's advice led to a campus visit during the winter of his senior year in high school. He spent time with some gregarious members of the basketball team, and their warm welcome sealed the deal. It was his teammates who eventually gave him his nickname, "Mato."

"Mato" has played a key role in revitalizing a program that had fallen onto hard times after a string of successes during the 1990s. "The numbers are nice," says Formato, referring to his own accomplishments, "but turning things around here and being a part of that history is what is most important. When I go into coach's office and see photos of guys like [John] Rinka, I get goose-bumps thinking about how he played the game and how he

literally mesmerized Ohio. Having my name anywhere near his makes me feel proud to be recognized as a part of Kenyon basketball history."

Head Coach Matt Croci has high praise for Formato. "Matt has consistently performed at a high level for us and has made quite an impact here," Croci says. "He has a magnetic personality and exudes the Kenyon spirit. His passions are equally balanced among politics, people, world issues, and basketball. We have had more than one prospective recruit mention that he'd love to play with Matt and help rebuild our program."

As for post-Kenyon plans, Formato would love to play professional basketball in Argentina or Mexico. Realistically, though, he is contemplating a career in international relations or business.

For now, he'll just have to keep working on--and making--history.

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