He is the reliable one, Noah Hartsock, and that must sound especially good to BYU these days.
Injuries have taken away two rotation players around him for a long duration (Chris Collinsworth, Stephen Rogers) and Brock Zylstra may be limited, or even unavailable, because of a sprained ankle that removed him from practice since the team's last game, a win last Saturday at Portland.
Zylstra re-aggravated the injury in the first half, but still shined in the second. Yet the pain hasn't been subsiding.
Though there is some good pain being administered by BYU, especially the senior forward Hartsock.
Heading into today's 4 p.m. Marriott Center game against Pepperdine, he's two blocked shots away from moving into a tie for third all-time at the school, 166.
That's only behind towering sensation Shawn Bradley (177) and Greg Kite (208) in Cougar annals.
What stands out about Hartsock is his relative diminutiveness among his fellow swatters.
Larson was listed at 6-foot-11, same with Kite. Bradley was a pituitary-gland legend, 7-6.
Hartsock is "just" 6-8, and a fairly unassuming physical presence. As a high school senior, he averaged 26.7 points (third highest) in Oklahoma that season and also nearly 10 rebounds. He could also tell opposing shooters at regularity to get out of his house. At that level, even in the large-school classification, Hartsock had a natural advantage of simply being taller than most.
But not all of the time now. Still, he averages 1.6 blocks this season (same as last year) and had three against Pepperdine in the first meeting Jan. 21, which is reason to believe he'll move up the charts and at least tie for third place.
Hartsock is self-effacing about some of his athleticism. He's not really going to block shots with a wild leaping ability. He noted that he played current NBA star Blake Griffin in high school, holding his own quite fine.
But when asked what's the nicest car he's ever jumped over (like Griffin's Kia clearance at the All-Star Game festivities), Hartsock said a child's trike.
Truth is, some younger teammates are mystified at Hartsock's ability. He doesn't tend to block many shots in practice.
Older players, like fellow senior captain Charles Abouo, get that Hartsock's ingenuity and timing are hard to match.
"He's sneaky about it," Abouo said. "Noah doesn't make emphatic blocks to intimidate people. He tries to keep the ball in play. That leads to transition baskets, and then everybody talks about how good we looked on the fast break — and they might forget how it started in the first place."
BYU head coach Dave Rose is concerned about Pepperdine's "skilled big guys," even though the Waves have lost 11 of 13 West Coast Conference games and sit 8-16 overall.
"We'll have to kind of adjust our zone (defense) a little bit to try and be more active," Rose said. "We'll have to try and knock down passes early. They pass with confidence, especially to the interior."
Maybe not as much, however, with Hartsock a heavy hand away from changing plays.
BYU (20-6, 8-3 West Coast Conference) vs. Pepperdine (8-16, 2-11)
4 p.m., Marriott Center
Radio: KSL 1160 AM (102.7 FM)
TV: BYU tv
Tip-ins: BYU leads the series, 5-4, including a 77-64 win in Malibu, Calif., on Jan. 21. ...This is BYU's second to last home game. ...BYU has forced an average of 22.3 turnovers in the last three games (15 steals). ...F Taylor Darby leads the Waves in scoring (11.7 ppg).
∫ Jason Franchuk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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