Sept. 12, 2013
The Nova Notebook, by director of media relations Mike Sheridan, visits with one of the new Wildcats, freshman guard Josh Hart.
In an effort to create a frame of reference for a player new to the college scene, labels are sometimes tossed about freely when describing a new arrival.
"Have you seen him? Picture a more athletic ..."
It's a common practice and often quite harmless. Yet it is of central import to keep in mind that such terms are just guideposts - no two players are exactly the same.
The words most often heard when the subject turns to 6-5 Villanova freshman Josh Hart are less about whom he reminds people of than they are about why his gifts caught the eye of multiple high level college programs. Hart, you see, plays with an energy that stands out. Couple that with an ample helping of talent and you have a promising newcomer whose tools figure to fit seamlessly in a Villanova system that prizes defense and toughness.
That this modus operandi is second nature to the product of Washington, D.C.'s Sidwell Friends School, stands to reason. After all, it's the only way he's really ever known.
"It's just something I've always done," noted Hart, while seated in the Davis Center cinema recently after an early morning workout. "My first coach told me there is no other way to play than to play hard. I might not always be the most skilled player but I'm always going to be one of the hardest workers on the court. I don't want anyone to outwork me on the court."
Words like those from Elliott Headley might have been lost on other eight year olds. But Hart took them seriously even at that tender age and incorporated them into his basketball ethos.
"He really put those fundamentals in and they have stayed with me," Hart states.
Hart embraced the game from an early age and his parents Moses and Pat were most supportive.
"They are monumental to me," he says. "No matter what, they are in my corner. Whether it was taking me out to shoot at 11 o'clock at night and pointing the car headlights (on the court) or staying on me about my academics, they've always been there."
Hart began his prep career at Wheaton High School before moving to Sidwell Friends School. It was there, under the direction of coach Eric Singletary, and along the summer basketball circuit (where he played with Team Takeover), that the possibilities began to unfurl for Hart as a basketball player.
Hart's recruiting profile grew quickly during the winter of 2011-12 and the summer that followed. A camp he attended in the spring of '12 seemed to ignite a new round of interest.
"I picked up like 10 offers after that one alone," he recalls.
Like most elite athletes, Hart initially found the attention flattering. But the deluge of texts and calls from college coaches lost its allure as the summer wore on. Hart focused on a few schools and formed bonds with the coaching staffs of each. By September, the leaders had been identified as Villanova, Penn State, and Rutgers, with Miami also in the mix.
Of course, Hart received no shortage of unsolicited advice via social media.
"Some people knew me better than I knew myself," he says with a chuckle. "Whenever I visited my girlfriend, people knew it. People knew where my cousins were going. It was interesting."
In the end, Hart says what he liked about Villanova went beyond the hardwood.
"The character of the coaching staff and the players was the biggest thing to me," he explains. "Here they stuck out with how they carry themselves and the success of the players after they leave, whether they go to the league or overseas. When you graduate, you can always come back and sit in Coach (Jay) Wright's office and look at different opportunities.
"On the basketball side, the development of the guards here is outstanding."
That said, it wasn't a simple decision.
"I was really torn," he says. "You develop strong relationships with the coaches at the other schools that are recruiting you and some of the players too."
One reason that Hart elected to ink his national letter of intent in the early signing period was so that he could focus all of his energy on his senior year at Sidwell Friends. He averaged 24.3 points, 13.4 rebounds and 2.8 rebounds per contest and was named first team All-Met by the Washington Post.
Hart came to Villanova after his graduation from Sidwell Friends School in June. He took summer session classes and grew acclimated to his new home.
"It's gone really well with the coaching staff and the players," he states. "They've really helped me along. The older guys have taken the freshmen under their wings. It makes things a lot easier when you have some of your peers take you under their wings."
As for a scouting report, Hart offers this self-appraisal: "I think I'm a bigger, more physical guard. I love contact. I like hitting the floor. I'll dive on the floor for loose balls, set screens, and hustle for every rebound. I want to make every hustle play. I'm definitely not going to give up on anything."
It's the kind of approach which could quickly make him a Nova Nation favorite.
"The coaches want me to keep up my high-motor," he says. "That's one of the reasons they wanted me to come here. Now they want me to continue with the high-motor while I learn about footwork and work on my shot and some of the details I have to get better at."
A high-octane engine has always been Josh Hart's calling card.
No reason to change now.