Noah Hartsock is quietly becoming one of the most effective all-around basketball players BYU has deployed in years.
Crafty as a cat and sneaky good, Hartsock is as dependable as a wrench.
Only one time this season has Hartsock failed to deliver numbers that have come to be expected in his run as a seasoned veteran senior leader. It came a week ago on the road at San Diego, where he scored just seven points and grabbed one rebound in a BYU win.
He's humble, unassuming and self-effacing in his projection as a leader and acts at all times like the consummate team player.
Thing is, it's not an act. He's the real deal, a dream for a coach because he comes to practice every day, gives 150 percent, doesn't run an agenda, does his job, goes home and shows up the next day to do it all again.
It is kind of the antithesis of what you see in many NBA players.
In the Jimmer Fredette era, Hartsock loyally spoke the company line and was Fredette's biggest backer on and off the court.
"Hartsock's ability to score has always been there," said his coach, Dave Rose. "But he's had to sacrifice that the last few years."
Whether taking a spot-up, mid-range jumper, stepping back for a 20-foot trey or twisting around the key to deliver a bucket against a defender, Hartsock is a rare blend of intelligence, basketball IQ and hard work to elevate what he may lack in natural talent.
Watching Hartsock play is kind of like watching a carpenter frame a wall.
In the Rose era, the BYU coach has always built his offense around scorers like Keena Young, Lee Cummard and Fredette. Hartsock's turn took three seasons to arrive in Provo, five years after he left high school as one of the most prolific scorers in Oklahoma.
"The keys for these guys has been developing their game while having patience. They have gradually worked into that scoring role," Rose said.
For a career that has only this season to show as a main scorer, Hartsock has 1,003 points, 578 rebounds and 158 blocked shots. That is a lot of black ink in a lot of key columns as a basketball player. It would be hard for Hartsock to catch and break Greg Kite's school record for blocked shots (208), but he needs only eight to catch Russell Larson for third place on the Cougars' all-time list.
Kite and Larson were over 6-foot-10. Hartsock is 6-8.
This season, Hartsock has eight games of 20 or more points, two with 19 and three of 18. The night before Loyola Marymount played in Provo and won, coach Max Good said he had nightmares of Hartsock. On game day, Hartsock scored a career-high 28.
"It became reality," he told reporters.
Hartsock is a career 55 percent shooter from the floor, 39 percent from beyond the arc and an impressive 80 percent shooter at the line.
He's a psychology major and has to know the free-throw thing and the timing on the blocked shots is textbook proof that his head is in the game. His focus doesn't wander in battle and he isn't a chicken when it comes to mixing it up.
"He's tough. He's not afraid to stick his nose in there and be physical. He likes to be engaged," said Rose. "I think his nose has either been broken or relocated five or six times. Some days in practice, his nose looks like it's going sideways, and the next day it's back in place. They just keep readjusting it."
That is Hartsock.
On a tough scale, I'd put him up there with Kite, Rafael Araujo, Danny Ainge, Mekeli Wesley, Ken Roberts, Jackson Emery and Travis Hansen.
In BYU circles, you'll often find a lot of players who are smooth, talented, or cute but don't like to draw blood from themselves — or anybody else. There has been a long line of stars that loved the idea of wearing a letterman's jacket, but didn't like to get it rumpled. Good basketball, however, requires a hard-hat attitude along with getting a mile of scuffs and bruises.
Hartsock does this. He plays tough, but isn't a dirty player whose flying elbow to somebody's jaw makes TV highlights and criticism.
Rose is enjoying one of BYU's best — not just during his tenure, but all-time — in this Hartsock guy.
Rose has only two more months to enjoy having him in his toolbox.
Email: [email protected]
Noah Hartsock file
Hometown: Bartlesville, Okla.
2011-12 season stats: 17.5 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.6 blocks per game
2011-12 shooting percentages: 58.3 FG, 82.5 FT