When I was in middle school, I played basketball for Holy Family Catholic School. The Eagles were a powerhouse in the New Albany Deanery league. I myself was a bench player for two years. I was usually the first or second guy off the bench. I wasn’t the most skilled player. I had a decent baseline jumper and made the occasional three, but I was nothing to write home about. However, I like to think it was my effort on the court and my “give it 110 percent” attitude that made me a good player.
So too is the case for Collin Hartman. Hartman, a sophomore for the Hoosiers, has really turned a lot of heads this season. When all the talk over the summer and fall was about James Blackmon Jr., Robert Johnson and the other freshman, people forgot about Hartman. Granted, the Indianapolis product was coming back from an ACL tear he sustained in a practice late last season. In fact, that bad news came on the heels of Indiana finding out that not only had it missed the NCAA tournament, but the NIT as well. But just seven months later, Hartman was back practicing.
I’ve had some experiences with ACL tears. My mom tore her ACL when I was younger. Granted a 20-year-old like Hartman can come back a lot faster than a middle aged woman. But it still is no easy task. Hours of physical therapy. Slowly regaining your ability. But that is only half the battle. Perhaps the toughest part, especially for an athlete, is coming back mentally. Hartman had to regain confidence in his knee. He had to be able to trust himself and the strength of that knee. That is no simple task.
Imagine if you knew that scattered around your carpet at home there were shards of glass. Would you be walking around the same way? No, not likely. You vacuum up the glass and hope that you got it all, but still walk around carefully just in case. That is until eventually you realize it must be okay to walk around normally since your foot hasn’t been cut up.
So how is Collin doing with his confidence? 4.4 points per game, 3.88 rebounds per game and shooting an efficient 52.1 percent from the floor, including 45.8 percent from behind the arc. This coming from a guy that averaged only four and half minutes a game last year, but has since seen his average jump to 16.8 minutes this season.
Hartman’s role has changed dramatically as well. No longer is he the trash man picking up garbage minutes late in games. Now, he is the spark off the bench. His effort is unmatched on this team. Every game he is the first out to shoot around. In game, he gives bursts of production. In the Ohio State game on Jan. 10, he recorded 3 blocks. But his best game of his career came against Penn State on Tuesday.
In the absence of an injured Hanner Mosquera-Perea, Hartman took the starting role and made the most of it. He tied his career high in points (8), a career high in assists (3), and pulled down 5 rebounds as well. When his number was called, he rose to the occasion once again. It should be no surprise. Earlier this season he was ranked fourth nationally in offensive efficiency according to Kenpom.com. While he now sits at 23rd on that list, he continues to get better as the season progresses.
I saw Hartman play in high school. The Cathedral product was playing in the Indiana semi-state game against Jeffersonville High School. Jeffersonville had their own standout in Darryl Baker. That didn’t faze Hartman. He scored 12 points and pulled down 8 rebounds on the way to a 75-53 victory. I wasn’t overwhelmed by Hartman’s performance. He was still a bit undersized for a guy that would have to play more of a forward position. I honestly didn’t think I’d ever see him play more than five minutes a game. I’m glad Hartman has proved me wrong. He has quickly become my favorite player on the team. He is unselfish in the way he plays. He always dives for loose balls. He crashes the boards, and when he is open, makes the easy shots look easy.
This point is: Collin Hartman show a lot of heart, man (Sorry, I couldn’t resist). Next time you watch him play look for the little things. That is what makes a player. A lot of players can make shots. But special players do the little things
Follow Lucas on Twitter @TheLucasCorley