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Jason Hart Oozes Excellence

My favorite Jason Hart story goes like this.

Freshman year, my friend was taking a Speech Communications class and the professor split all of the students up into groups for a project. Fellow freshman Jason Hart was put in my friend's group. As the group was trying to figure out a time to meet and discuss their project, the following exchange happened:

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.

Now, if you think Scoop Jardine is frustrating, you have no idea. Freshman Jason Hart was like Scoop but with even less control. So you can imagine that, had the Orange taken the floor that night and Jason Hart had been MIA because he was at Bird Library discussing a Speech Comm class project, some SU fans wouldn't have minded.

Not that it was all his fault, it was one of the youngest and rawest teams in Jim Boeheim's tenure. And that also doesn't tell the whole story on Hart, who became the face of the Syracuse basketball program for the four years he was here. He came to SU from across the country with a whole lot of hype, I mean Jonny Flynn hype, and he only started to live up to some of it by the time he was a senior. That said, it was a fun ride watching him grow up on the court over that time. From the guy who gave us heart-attacks as freshmen to the guy who led the Orange to a 19-0 start and a Sweet Sixteen appearance as a senior. He also left behind plenty of quality numbers worth remembering:

He helped SU to a cumulative record of 92-40 and to two Sweet Sixteens between 1996-'97 and 1999-'00, he remains SU’s career leader in steals, he sits at No. 2 on the all-time assists list and he scored 1,503 points. Beyond that, he willed himself through all or parts of nine NBA seasons -- a number exceeded, to date, by only seven other Orange products (Dave Bing, Derrick Coleman, Sherman Douglas, Billy Owens, Danny Schayes, Rony Seikaly and Etan Thomas).

Ed. Note: When you put it like that, wow...

As happens for great Syracuse point guards, his pro career was hit and miss. That he played for nearly a decade in the NBA is a credit to his determination and growth.

Hart will be in the building this weekend, taking in the DePaul game, as he prepares to accept the 29th Vic Hanson Medal of Excellence on Sunday evening during the annual team dinner at the Oncenter.

Hart spoke with Bud Poliquin about what it takes not only to be successful at SU but also in the NBA. It's a lesson not lost on so many recent Orange stars who left early for glory but have struggled in the Bigs, if they've made it at all.

"A lot of guys coming out of the big programs, when they fail, they go into a shell. They tend to give up quicker. It’s hard to get in that league. And it’s hard to stay there. If you don’t have a specialty that you can turn to when something else isn’t going right in your game, it’s tough to stick. My thing was defense, and I stuck to defense my whole career."

I didn't really think of it until just now but Scoop Jardine has definitely got a lot of Jason Hart in him. The hope is, then, that Scoop comes back in his senior year with the same determination and growth that Hart showcased in his time. Who knows, we might all be back here in 2021 to honor Scoop with the 39th Vic Hanson Medal of Excellence. Jason Hart has proven that what once seemed crazy can one day soon seem like a no-brainer.