Noah Hartsock stood on some old, familiar space at BYU's basketball practice Wednesday — about 18 feet from the hoop.
But these days, his role is totally different at the Marriott Center. He was talking to freshman center Eric Mika by the 3-point line while watching another Cougar newcomer, Luke Worthington, shoot free throws.
The former BYU power-forward standout — one of the most dependable, durable players in coach Dave Rose's tenure — is back with the program.
He left a pro season in Spain after a dissatisfying two-week period, deciding with a pregnant wife that enough was enough traveling Europe. He had been hit up by a few BYU coaches about the idea of coming back to the program to be a student assistant in some form or fashion.
The responsibilities and title are still up in the air, though Hartsock intends on starting school soon at BYU to earn a teaching degree. Right now he's learning how to use to the video equipment the team uses to dissect practice and game film.
"I just think this is the best opportunity for me right now," Hartsock said.
Hartsock graduated in 2012 after helping the Cougars win a "First Four" game in Dayton, Ohio, then the Cougars lost to Marquette in the NCAA Tournament. It was the year after Jimmer Fredette graduated, leaving massive holes in scoring and team identity. Hartsock, through numerous injuries, still averaged about 16 points. His versatility at 6-foot-9 — able to hit a long-range jumpshot — gave him a senior year to flourish in BYU's offense and then he received a chance to play professionally in Belgium.
Life's moved fast the last couple of years. He's about to become a father. His younger brother is serving an LDS mission in Las Vegas (and is a couple of years away from becoming a BYU hoopster himself) and the Oklahoma native's parents have moved to Washington.
Hartsock still looks and acts the same, however, complete with a big smile and affable personality, even if the brief time in Spain wasn't exactly the best situation to end his own playing career.
Now, the Cougars could use his insight. Especially among a group of young, new players and a power-forward spot in which they will have a lot of options.
Rose hinted after Wednesday's practice, as Hartsock did some tutoring in the background, that the team could use Nate Austin at the 4-spot to go with Mika at center.
Another newcomer, Frank Bartley IV, provides a tantalizing 6-foot-3 guard look to consider at power forward.
Kyle Collinsworth could play there, too, but Rose says that may be more likely on defense because of his height. Collinsworth's guard persona makes him more valuable in one of those spots to chase down rebounds.
Rose has used a variety of memorable options at the "4," from Hartsock's classic mid-range jumpshot game to Keena Young's ability to drive to the rim; to Jonathan Tavernari's ability to stretch a defense with his desire to shoot the 3-pointer.
This year there's also Josh Sharp, who like Austin has had to compete with consistency issues most revolving around nagging injuries in recent time.
If all falls into place, Hartsock will become Rose's first student assistant in his nine years.
"I want to be a coach someday," Hartsock said. "So the timing just seemed perfect for me to jump into this. At first I didn’t even think I’d get a chance to play professionally. But I always figured I’d take this kind of route."
Tip-ins: Freshman center Luke Worthington looked just fine at practice after missing a few days about a week ago with a sprained ankle. ...Matt Carlino sat out Wednesday's session because of illness.