Hi, my name is Jason Abrams and I’m going to be contributing college basketball pieces, namely about Syracuse and St. John’s to NYSOS.
Just like how no one could have predicted how successful of a season St. John’s was going to have before the season started, no one thought to mention anyone on their roster as a Big East Player of the Year candidate. However, as the Red Strom has succeeded on the court, the accolades have started to compile off the court as well. St. John’s Senior Guard Dwight Hardy, who wasn’t even starting last season, has successfully worked his way into the discussion of this coveted award; as he should. All season he has played great basketball, whether he is shooting away from the basket, driving in on a fast break, or playing shut down defense. Not to mention, he has also played his best when he has had to will his team to the victories they have enjoyed.
This couldn’t be further evident than this past weekend as Hardy’s clutch, athletic last-second, underhanded basket helped St. John’s beat fourth ranked Pittsburgh. Hardy finished the game with 19 points, 13 of which came in the second half, to help St. John’s pull off the upset. – Is it even an upset at this point after what the Red Storm has accomplished this season?
The Red Storm have climbed to 17-9 overall and 9-5 in the Big East. For those scoring at home, for the second time this season, St. John’s managed to beat a top-5 team and now have five wins over top-25 teams thanks to Hardy. This success paid off in a huge way on Monday as St. John’s is now ranked in the top 25 in the nation for the first time since Nov. 28, 2000.
Over the course of this special season, Hardy is averaging over 17 points per game in almost 34 minutes of play, shooting 44% from the field and 86% from the free throw line. However, that doesn’t show how valuable Hardy is to his team considering he has played his best against the best competition. In the first game against Georgetown, Hardy finished with 20 points, 50% shooting from the field and an accurate as can be 10 for 10 from the free throw line. During the team’s victory versus Duke, who is currently the number one team in the country, Hardy shot 9 for 13, including 6 for 6 from the line, which lead to a total of 26 points. If that wasn’t enough, check out Hardy’s line from his best game of the year. Facing a tough UConn team, Hardy scored 33 points, with a marksman-like 10 for 17 from the court and 8/8 from the charity stripe. That’s the type of play that will get you into the discussion.
Who is Hardy’s main competition? Pittsburgh guard Ashton Gibbs has missed past three games with an MCL injury to his left knee, so that could hurt his chances already. Syracuse Forward Rick Jackson shows dominance in the low-post and also currently leads the league in rebounds, with 11.22 per game. However, he is only averaging 13 points per game. Georgetown guard Austin Freeman will also prove to be stiff competition as he averages 17.7 points on an impressive 53.5 percent shooting and 40.6 3-point shooting percentage. Finally, UCONN guard Kemba Walker is averaging 22.9 points per game, 6.3 assists, and has a shooting percentage of 42.9% However, one thing to keep in mind is Walker had his worst game of the year versus the Red Storm, with 15 points coming off 4 for 16 shooting and 3 for 6 from the line.
Look, I’m a realist; chances are Walker will win Big East Player of the Year, as he will probably will National Player of the Year. Every night defenses have their game plans set-up to stop him, and it still doesn’t work. However, I like to think the Big East Player of the Year should be the one player who helps his team the most when they need him and in the team’s biggest games. To me, that’s Dwight Hardy.