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Hart & Soul

The Three Idiots are doing a nice running feature over on their site, counting down the Top 25 Orangemen of the Idiot Era. What exactly encompasses such an epoch?
The Idiots are all in their mid 30's and began religiously following the Orange in the early/mid 80's. Yes we know Dave Bing and Vic Hanson are legends, but we really never saw them play, so they are not on our list.
They're on #16 today and appropriately it's a tie between two Orangemen who will be intrinsically linked together for the rest of their lives, Jason Hart and Etan Thomas. I came to SU the same year they did so they're some extra special memories that these two conjure up for me. Not all good but not all bad either.

Much like the current class of freshman, these guys came in with loads of expectations. More Hart than Thomas, as Jason was fully expected to be the next Sherman Douglas. While statistically, Hart will go down in the record books close to or even surpassing Douglas in some cases, those of us who were there know that his tenure at SU was marred with disappointment.

The image that will always come to mind to me was the shot of Jason Hart standing alone at midcourt after the Orange had just been thrashed by UCLA. It was a homecoming for Jason and all of the excitement that preceding the game was erased in the loss. Not only did SU lose but it was as if the loss was an acknowledgement that Hart's career wasn't going to leave behind the golden legacy laid out for him. (Anyone have that photo? I think it was in the D.O.)

It would be unfair to only speak of the negatives for Hart though. He was a defensive whiz and led the Orange to two Sweet Sixteens (although we don't like to speak of that 2nd one much...).

Still, the lasting memory I have of Hart comes down to a conversation he had with my a friend of mine freshman year. My friend was taking a Speech Communications class (teeheehee) and the professor split all of the students up into groups for a project. Jason Hart was put in my friend's class. The following is a paraphrased conversation my friend and Jason had while trying to figure out a time to meet to discuss their project.

So when is everyone available?
Jason: Let's get together tonight.
Okay, how's 7 sound at the library?
Aight, I'll be there.
See you then. (starts packing up, gets ready to walk away)
Oh shit, wait, I can't meet tonight. We got a game.

I always loved the fact that the starting point guard of our Division 1 basketball team almost found himself sitting in the SU Library at 7:30 on a game night, wondering why passer-bys keep looking at him strange and then in a moment of clarity shot up screaming "OH SHIT!" in the middle of a silent library before running full-speed out the door mumbling about how bad Boeheim was going to beat the crap out of him.

As for Etan, the word that comes to mind when I think of him is Progression. I'm with Champ, how could any SU fan forget Etan fouling out in the first half a game his freshman year (I didn't remember it was against Georgetown though, which makes it even more awesome)? I can still see Boeheim's scowl as Thomas walked off the court towards him. To paraphrase Patton Oswalt, "you could have drizzled his hate onto pancakes, so rich and thick..." I also like to point out the time Etan blocked a shot against Duke, preened for the crowd under the basket and then looked up to see a three-pointer go in from the guy he swatted the ball to.

Hardly the Etan Thomas we know now, huh? The guy matured unlike any player I've ever witnessed and that was a great thing to watch. He wasn't the poet laureate he is today but even by the time he was a senior you could see that Etan was a changed man, on and off the court. However you felt about his opinions, you had to respect the way he grew as a player and as a student.

But still...fouled out in the first half...that's the ultimate "I'm not even mad, I'm impressed" moment in SU history, isn't it?

The legacy of that class is always going to be tinged with disappointment (an NIT appearance as freshman, 1 first-round NCAA exit, no Big East titles) but it would unfair to dismiss all the good that came from them as well (two Sweet Sixteens, the 19-0 start in 2000). The current players would be wise to look at Hart and Thomas' careers and see what they can learn from them, especially Flynn and Harris. Especially the fact that, eventually, both found a modicum of success in the pro world even with all the issues around them at SU.