PORTLAND, Ore. — At BYU basketball practices these days, Noah Hartsock is still firing his trademark frozen-rope jumpers.
And those shots still usually settle in the bottom of the net.
Hartsock finished his eligibility a couple of years ago for the Cougars, but after a stint of playing professionally in Europe, he has returned to the program as a graduate assistant.
Part of his responsibilities include playing on the scout team, which prepares BYU’s starters in practice for the upcoming game.
The Cougars, who are riding a five-game winning streak, visit Portland Thursday (8 p.m. MST, Root).
During games, Hartsock sits on the bench, wearing a suit and tie, and he carries a clipboard. While he is doing what he can to help the BYU program, Hartsock is also preparing for his future — as a coach.
“I always wanted to be in coaching,” Hartsock said. “I never thought I’d play professionally. It’s been awesome to do that for a while. I’m OK with not playing anymore. It’s fun going against the guys. Practices are fun. I try to do as much as possible to give them a good look for the next game. I also help our redshirting players get a feel for our offense. It’s been a good time helping out at practice.”
Hartsock, who ranks No. 27 in school history in scoring (1,191 points) and is tied for No. 2 all-time at BYU in blocked shots (177) with Shawn Bradley, played pro basketball in Belgium — he was teammates for a while with another former Cougar, Lee Cummard — before returning to his alma mater last summer.
“I didn’t get the contract that I wanted (in Belgium),” Hartsock explained. “I talked to the (BYU) coaches, and they told me I could come back here and help out. It turned out to be the best for me and my family. I want to do coaching long-term. It’s been really good. A lot of what I do is helping players develop and stuff and also whatever they need, film work, breaking down film, behind-the-scenes work and helping out where I can.”
Hartsock, who's only two years removed from his collegiate playing days, brings a wealth of experience, and a different perspective, to a BYU team that doesn’t have any seniors on the roster.
“Noah’s just a great competitor. He’s one of the best we’ve had here,” said coach Dave Rose. “His experience is great for the younger guys. I think that he really looks forward to his career path now. He played here not knowing what was going to happen and he played professionally. Now, he really wants to get into the coaching profession. We love having him around. He’s a guy who understands our program from top to bottom. I think he can really help the younger guys.”
Guard Tyler Haws, who is the Cougars’ leading scorer, played with Hartsock as a freshman in 2009-10.
“He brings experience and a lot of winning experience,” Haws said of Hartsock. “He’s been around a lot of guys and knows a lot about the game. It’s good to have him around.”
At BYU, Hartsock was one of the winningest players in school history. He was part of the Jimmer Fredette teams that won conference championships and advanced in the NCAA tournament, including the Sweet 16 in 2011.
The year after Fredette moved on to the NBA as a first-round draft pick, Hartsock, then a senior, helped lead the Cougars to the NCAA tournament again. In the first round, BYU trailed by a seemingly insurmountable 25 points in the first half to Iona before staging a furious rally. The Cougars stunned the Gaels, 78-72, to record the largest comeback in NCAA tournament history. In that game, Hartsock scored 23 points, including 17 in the second half.
It stands as one of Hartsock’s most memorable moments at BYU. “It was amazing,” he recalled.
Another amazing event is about to happen to Hartsock, and his wife, Kendalyn, a former BYU volleyball player. The couple is expecting their first child, a son, this month.
“I told coach Rose, ‘Start recruiting him now.’ He’s going to be a player, hopefully,” Hartsock said with a smile.
Another Hartsock will join the Cougars sooner than that. Noah’s younger brother, Jakob, signed with BYU and is currently serving a mission in Las Vegas.
Meanwhile, Noah is busy preparing for a career in coaching.
“I’d love to keep on coaching. I’d love to stay at this level, but even if it’s high school, I’m just looking forward to being involved with basketball,” he said. “It’s what I know really well and it’s been part of my life for so long. I really enjoy it.”
What is Hartsock’s scouting report on this year’s BYU team?
“They’re very talented. There are a lot of skill players that can do a lot of different things,” he said. “We have a lot of young players. That showed in our first conference games. Most guys didn’t know what to expect. I think as they got into it, they knew more. They’ve done a really good job for how there have been so many good teams on the schedule. As it goes on, it will just get better and better. If they continue like they are, they’ll be pretty good.”
Hartsock is grateful to Rose for giving him a chance to chase his coaching dream, and he's learning all he can from him.
“I see how much he cares for each player and how much he wants to see them get better,” Hartsock said. “He knows all the ins and outs of knowing how to work the players hard, then give them rest. He understands the game so well and how to manage it. That’s taught me a lot from a coaching standpoint.”
Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company