PROVO -- After several different experiments with the starting lineup, it looks like BYU men's basketball Head Coach Dave Rose has found the right combination. Noah Hartsock, the newest member of Rose's starting rotation, is making the best of his opportunity.
Since jumping into the starting lineup for Jonathan Tavernari, BYU's all-time leader in three-point field goals, Hartsock has averaged eight points, 6.7 rebounds, a steal and a block in 23 minutes of play. The redshirt sophomore has also not committed a turnover since the change was made. Hartsock said he was excited for the opportunity to fill this role for the team.
"It's just another way I can help the team," he said, noting that Tavernari has been fine with the change as well. "I can come in and bring a lot of energy to start the game."
Hartsock attributed his increase in scoring to the threats his teammates pose on the offensive end.
"When Tyler (Haws), JT, Chris (Miles) and Jackson (Emery) get double-teamed, usually I'm left open, and I've been able to knock down my shots," said Hartsock, adding that both he and the coaches feel he can still play a larger role. "The coaches want me to be more aggressive on both sides of the ball."
The former McDonald's High School All America nominee has especially been a threat on the defensive side of the ball. It's been a while since the Cougars have had a shot-blocking threat in the middle; former Cougar Lee Cummard led the team in blocks the previous season.
Hartsock has averaged a block per game since the beginning of the season, and said it's an area in which he has always had success. When he was a senior in high school he recorded a whopping 100 blocks in 27 games.
Why has he always been so successful at blocking shots?
"Maybe it's because I don't like taking charges," Hartsock joked with a grin.
Rose said he is excited with the forward's progress as well.
"Noah's been playing very well. He's leading us in rebounds the last three or four games," Rose said. "Offensively, he takes opportunity shots, so he shoots a high percentage."
Hartsock will have the opportunity to make his presence felt again Thursday evening when the Cougars (8-1) host Wagner University (1-7), kicking off the HoopTV Las Vegas Classic.
Wagner earned its first victory of the season over Saint Peters College in its last outing 59-58. The Seahawks are led in scoring by sophomore guard Chris Martin, who averages14.3 points per game.
Hartsock said despite the Seahawks' record, the Cougars will not be looking past them.
"It's still another challenge for us," said Hartsock, sounding just like his head coach. "It's the biggest game of the year, because it's the next one on our schedule."
Tipoff is at 7:00 p.m. in the Marriott Center. The game will be broadcast on KSL Newsradio 102.7 FM/1160AM and online at KSL.com. It will be televised on BYU TV.
Photo courtesy BYUCougars.com