Facebook, Dell, Napster, The Milkman. 4 nationwide phenomenons, all created in a college dorm. Even the mightiest of titans emerge from mere clay. Only a select few were aware of how Matt Heldt was christened with the name that will define his Marquette legacy, but with Heldt’s senior day approaching I felt the need to share the story and reflect on his time on the team.
In the spring semester of 2017, my friends and I wrote for the Marquette-centered satirical website known as The Golden Seagull under the moniker Coleman Reese. If that name doesn’t sound familiar to you, then you need to stop what you’re doing now and watch The Dark Knight because this scene is perfect. It started from a drunk email (pro tip: never ever ever ever do this) to the editor that developed into a way for a group of bored college seniors to spend a Tuesday night. We also had an inside joke that Matt Heldt looked like a milkman. This distinction really applies to any white guy from Wisconsin, but we focused mainly on Matt. One night, we just decided that we would create a movement based on our running gag. We were going to transform Matt Heldt from Usable Bench Player to Marquette Legend.
The plan was officially put into motion on February 21, 2017 when Marquette defeated St. John’s at home. That game is notable because Heldt recorded his only career double-double. The stadium was desperate for a win, since a loss would have greatly tarnished their tournament aspirations that year. Wojo needed a spark in the lineup following a loss to Georgetown, so he decided to begin games with Luke Fisher on the bench and reward Matt’s work ethic by giving him the starting job. This was his second opportunity to showcase his value. He scored 15 points, did not miss from the floor or the free throw line, and grabbed 10 rebounds. Coleman Reese did not want this performance to go unnoticed, so we tried to keep the momentum going.
If you’re a student, you’ve certainly heard of/participated in the Milkman Shuffle. It was born from this gif, caught on camera after Heldt executed an and-one, which was easily the highlight of that game. The gentlemen doing that motion were 2 members of Coleman Reese, Thomas Muldoon and Jack Howlett. Their names aren’t important, but they’re good pals so I figure they’d appreciate the shoutout. Somehow they got other members of the student section to join in that night, somehow the sequence was included in the highlight reel, and somehow former MU Wire reporter Brendan Ploen made that clip into a gif for us to use on social media to get others in on the movement.
Immediately after the game, we started writing. We were all Seymour Hersh and Dorothy Thompson, gathered around a dimly lit computer in the wee hours of the morning. Ties loosened. Shirt sleeves messily rolled up. Cigarettes hanging out of a slightly agape mouth. After roughly one (1) hour and 4 paragraphs, the result was this. It was an immediate hit, and the Milkman name creeped its way into the common lexicon the following year. Somehow the fellows at Marquette Nation caught wind of the name and began using it whenever Matt did literally anything. From that point on even the most casual fan associated Matt Heldt with his branded name. Now the Milkman Shuffle is performed on the unfortunately rare occasion that he enters a game, and students have a folk hero. It caught on better than we ever could have hoped, in part because humans are lowly sheep who beg to follow the orders of the loudest voice, but also because of what Heldt did to earn that recognition.
Even without the name, Matt Heldt should be remembered by all Marquette fans because we have him all to ourselves. The crooked national media will never mention him as a name to watch in the draft or even the tournament because of his limited skillset. He’s the type of player that only a close-knit group of fans can appreciate. It creates a stronger sense of community among fans since only we can experience the joy of watching. He’s like that scene in Saving Private Ryan after Matt Damon tells the story of his last night with his brothers and asks Tom Hanks to elaborate on the story about his wife and the rose bushes, but Hanks says the story is just for him. It’s one of those, “You just had to be there” stories.
Nothing will ever embody what the Matt Heldt Experience was like than his performance against Xavier this year. This man entered the year having carved his own path from being a freshman benchwarmer to developing into a damn solid starting center. His defensive performances against bigs like Ethan Happ, Angel Delgado and Isaac Haas were about the only thing holding Marquette’s paper-thin 2018 defense together. That’s not to take away the fact that he recorded the second highest Offensive Rating in all D-1 basketball last year (Screw you, De’Quon Lake) And just like that it was stripped away during his senior year. Theo John and Ed Morrow are both just better players than Heldt is. I certainly don’t blame Wojo for giving playing time to guys that will better help the team win. It was an unfortunate coincidence that his playing time was almost completely eliminated, but he clearly cares about the team and chose to continue working his ass off to make everyone better. His dedication was manifested on January 26 in Cincinnati.
Because of foul trouble, Heldt played for 20 minutes, scored 2 points, grabbed 3 rebounds, had 1 assist that game. Yawn? No. The offense just works better when The Milkman is in the picture because he’s so damn good at just getting in the way of defensive bigs and preventing them from affecting close shots. Even Marquette legend Jim McIlvaine couldn’t help but comment of the screens he sets. He helped set off a comeback when Marquette needed it most and threw a bow on it with a clutch offensive rebound and immediate kickout to Sam Hauser for the go-ahead three. That’s Matt Heldt. The effort was capped off perfectly by Wojo’s post game press conference, where even the Badgerest Badger fan had to have grabbed a tissue.
We will rightfully remember the early Wojo years by transcendent talents like Markus Howard, Sam Hauser and Andrew Rowsey. Just don’t forget guys like The Milkman when your granddaughter Xirzys (pronounced “Jamie”) is sitting on your lap someday asking about the basketball players of yore. The 4 year players with that kind of work ethic and dedication to the school of which they proudly don the jersey are part of what makes college basketball great. Although the last week or so of Marquette basketball has been a bucket full of suck, I’m glad that Matt Heldt will get the sendoff he deserves and I hope the students in the stands are able to cherish each Milkman Shuffle.