Dick Harmon: Cougars lose a true captain as Noah Hartsock's career comes to a close
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — He's not over seven feet tall, he may not ever play in the NBA, but Noah Hartsock was the heart and soul of BYU's basketball team that just ended a 26-win season in a loss against Marquette on Thursday.
Hartsock finishes his career tied with Shawn Bradley for career blocks (177) after getting his final and only one against the No. 11 Golden Eagles. He did it on a sore knee and an inflamed ankle that bothered him so much he didn't manage a rebound, something he did more of than about anybody in the WCC this season.
Hartsock's legacy is a good one. It always will be.
The consummate good guy, typical accommodating BYU athlete, full of smiles, apple pie attitude, nice things to say, nary a disparaging word. Hartsock was a great captain for Dave Rose; an example of hard play, consistency and team play.
If you tried to get him to talk negative, trash an official, question a strategy, dump on somebody, he'd politely refuse. Isn't in his DNA. If his wife Kendalyn ever finds him ornery, it would be news.
He will be missed.
It is uncertain if his younger brother, BYU-bound recruit Jakob, also from Bartlesville, Okla., is anything like his older brother. If he is, Rose will have another gem.
After BYU's loss to Marquette, fellow senior Charles Abouo found it easy to talk about Hartsock and the legacy he will leave.
"First of all, he's an amazing person. He's great. He's always brought something to this team and on the court that can't be replaced.
"I don't think I've ever played with someone who is as consistent as Noah has been," said Abouo. "He has a lot of ability. He's unassuming, but he's as consistent as anybody I've seen and it's just the kind of person he is — the same every day. He doesn't let himself get too rattled. He's paid huge dividends for us over his four years in the program."
Hartsock injured his knee at Santa Clara on February 18 and aggravated his ankle, an injury he'd fought through for some time. As a result, he played only 7 minutes in BYU's next game, a loss at Gonzaga, and did not make an appearance in BYU's final regular league game against Portland on senior night in the Marriott Center on Feb. 25.
He did return to the lineup in a WCC tournament game in Las Vegas in a win over San Diego and scored 19 points with five rebounds. He scored 12 in a loss to Gonzaga in the semifinals of the WCC with just one rebound.
Against Iona, in a record-setting comeback win, Hartsock scored a team-high 23 points with five rebounds in what would be BYU's 26th victory.
In Hartsock's career, he was part of 113 wins and played a key role on seasons with 25, 30, 32 and 26 wins and four-straight NCAA tournament appearances.
Hartsock scored 1,191 points in his Cougar career, just passing All-American Joe Richey to approach the top 25 scorers of all time.
"He's been so consistent all year," said Rose.
Abouo is another player who will be missed by the Cougars next season and he spoke of his gratitude for a year that began with a trip to Greece this summer.
"It's been an amazing run with a lot of ups and downs but just being with these guys and these coaches, there's not a better bunch of guys to experience the wins and even the losses and tough times that made us a better group," said Abouo.
"It's not what you expected. The year is not always what you presume but it was definitely great and it hurts going out like this not playing your best, but I have no regrets."
Junior Brock Zylstra said he felt for Hartsock when he had to sit down with his third personal foul in the first half against Marquette with nine minutes left before intermission.
Hartsock did not start the second half in Thursday's loss because of the foul trouble.
"He was playing hard, he wanted to make an impact like he always has and lead the team. I'm sure it was hard for him to sit down there on the bench, especially when it was the last game of his college career.
"But Noah has had an amazing career. He's been a phenomenal player for us in scoring, rebounding and blocks."
Hartsock, said Zylstra, went down trying to be aggressive and make plays.
It was kind of a snapshot of his college career.
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