Hart of a Champion

The underdog story is cliché, but people do not get tired of it. The hero is overlooked with flash and substance being glamorized instead. He/she sweats and digs through hours upon hours of frustrating grunt work that is summarized in a cheesy training montage set to a song from the Rocky series. Finally, the hero gets his/her opportunity. He's nervous, but on the surface, he looks calm and ready. Then, he/she loses his/herself in the music and the moment and owns it. People love the underdog story because it exemplifies the American dream: a lower or middle-class person scrapping his/her way to the top. A great example of this is Los Angeles Lakers' rookie guard/wing, Josh Hart.

Let's look at the underdog as a young pup, struggling to find himself. When Hart was 10 years old, his team was getting blown out and his father, Moses, despised what he saw in his son: quitting. He had a Hart-to-Hart with his son (get it?!) and told him, "Don't settle, son. Go all out. Do it the right way or don't do it at all." Subsequently, Moses helped Josh to work on the entire repertoire of his fundamentals which they would subsequently do regularly for years.

Down the line, Hart got recruited to play for a private school, Sidwell Friends, for his sophomore year which, unlike public schools, had a more college-oriented curriculum. This overwhelmed Hart quite a bit, consequently causing his grades to slip. He was almost kicked out until his family and friends convinced the school to let him stay. His father wanted him to finish what he had started. Hart got a tutor and put in hours of studying. Not only did his grades skyrocket, but his confidence did as well, which affected the way he played. He ended up being a 4-star recruit by ESPN with offers from schools like Penn State, Rutgers, and Villanova. He ended up committing to the latter, seizing his moment.

In his freshman year at Villanova, Hart struggled with his jump shot making only 31% from 3, but still made the Big East All-Rookie team. Assistant Coach Baker Dunleavy loved his confidence and Head Coach Jay Wright loved his work ethic. "That is why we recruited him," Coach Wright said.

His sophomore year, Hart won the Big East 6th Man of the Year. Hart had a career high in 3-point percentage at 46.4%, effective field goal percentage at 62.2%, and true shooting percentage at 63.6%.

As a junior, Hart was unanimously selected to the First-Team All-Big East and Third-Team All-American by the National Association of Basketball Coaches. Most importantly, he was a national champion after Villanova upset North Carolina 77-74 in NCAA championship. Hart had 12 points on 9 shots along with a stellar 8 rebounds and tough hard-nosed defense.

Forgoing the NBA Draft, Hart stayed for his senior year where he had his best season of his illustrious college career. He was named First-Team All-American and the Big East Player of the Year. Hart showed he was not only one of the best players in the country, but also one of the better prospects going into the draft.

Let's analyze some of his key statistics over the course of his career at Villanova: 

  PP100Poss eFG% TS% 3pt% FT% TRB% AST% TOV% USG%
Freshman 21.5 57.5 60.3 31.3 67.7 12.0 8.1 8.0 16.7
Sophomore 24.5 62.2 63.6 46.4 67.0 10.6 11.6 11.7 18.9
Junior 29.3 57.5 60.2 35.7 75.2 12.8 12.4 11.4 24.3
Senior 34.3 59.0 61.9 40.4 74.7 12.2 18.8 11.5 27.8
Career 28.3 58.9 61.4 38.9 72.0 12.0 13.3 11.0 22.7

(via Sports-Reference.com/CBB)

Hart was incredibly efficient from the start. While his 3-point percentage has had its ups and downs, he was consistent with his overall efficiency with a stupendous effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage each year. He was also quite often aggressive so to have that kind of efficiency on high volume is incredible. He showed a knack to create his own shot, but maximized each possession trying to get the best one available. While he may not be a great scorer in the NBA, he can search for crafty, smart jumpers or layups off the dribble and knock down open 3s spotting up on the wing. He may not be an elite 3-point or free-throw shooter yet, but it shouldn't be surprising if he is good or great at both by his second or third season. While he will not make plays for others, at least not right away, due to his low assist rate, he won't turn it over much either. He should be a good off-guard/wing attacking in the triple threat.

As for his defense, Hart has consistently been stout. At Villanova and his short stint in the NBA Summer League, he was mostly engaged and active. On the ball, he slides his feet very well keeping his outside foot in front of his man's outside foot. He also does a good job switching and rotating over to help. What might hurt him early on is his lack of strength and explosive athleticism, but over time with NBA training, he very well could improve so he is good enough in both areas. Most rookies are not good defenders because NBA offenses are so much faster and have more rhythm than college offenses. The athletes are bigger, stronger, faster, and better at every position. At 6'5" and 209 pounds along with a 6'8" wingspan, Hart has good size to defend both guard spots. It remains to be seen if he can guard 3s, but time will tell.

Overall, Hart's tenure at Villanova progressively got better with each season and he reached his goal of making the NBA. The underdog pushed his way through and when he got his opportunity whether it was finally starting, winning the national championship, and being the focal point of one of the best teams in the country. He carpe diemed the you-know-what out of them. While he may not become the next superstar, if he can find a role as a sort-of mix of George Hill and Wes Matthews, he will have a very successful and long NBA career barring any injuries (knock on wood). This is just the next chapter in Josh Hart's underdog story. Each time he had to overcome adversity, he came out on top. Now as the last pick in the first round, it is just another opportunity to prove doubters wrong.


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