Give it to the kid
Mountaineers look to freshman Hargett to lead team
By Dave Hickman, Special to CNNSI.com
Sure, Troy Bell has heard of Jonathan Hargett. He's heard a lot, in fact.
He's heard about the moves, about the shots, about the drives to the basket. He's heard about most of Hargett's game.
He's probably even heard about Hargett's history, although he probably has a little trouble following it -- four high schools in four years, including stops at Mount Zion Christian Academy in North Carolina as a junior and National Christian Academy in Fort Washington, Md., last winter.
And truth be told, Bell has probably also heard that Hargett toyed with the idea of skipping college all together for a shot at the NBA.
But the thing that Bell knows best about West Virginia's freshman point guard is that he is, well, a freshman point guard.
Everything else is secondary.
"I heard the guy's pretty good," said Bell, the Boston College point guard who was last season's Big East co-player of the year. "But looking back at myself as a freshman, I know he's probably got a lot of learning to do."
Hargett, the Mountaineers' electric, 6-foot point guard, was selected as the Big East's preseason rookie of the year in a vote of the league's coaches.
What is Hargett in for during his first season of college basketball? Well, a little schooling if you can believe those who have been there.
"I had to learn a lot. I thought I knew it, just like everyone thinks they know it," said Bell, who will have to sit out the first few weeks of the season after undergoing knee surgery in late October. "But I found out pretty fast when I played guys like Khalid [El-Amin of Connecticut] that no matter how good you are, you can be made to look foolish by guys who know more. Maybe he's the exception, I don't know."
Mike Jarvis knows Hargett's situation from a coach's standpoint. Last season at St. John's, Jarvis coached point guard Omar Cook, who would leave after just one season for the NBA, something that is a very real possibility for Hargett, as well.
"All kids are different. But the hardest part about being a freshman is being a freshman," said Jarvis. "No matter how good he is or how much he thinks he knows, there are going to be times -- a lot of times -- when somebody opens his eyes to something new.
"A big part of it is going to be how he handles frustration, and there will be frustrations. How does he react the first time John Linehan comes after him? And more importantly, how does he react the second time?"
Linehan is the lightning-quick point guard at Providence who has made a career of going after other point guards defensively. He said going after a freshman is no different than going after a veteran, but he's interested to see what Hargett has.
"When you play against a veteran, you know what he's going to do, what he's good at and what you can go after," said Linehan. "When you play a freshman it's an opportunity to see how he's going to react to certain things. We'll find out how he reacts."
Bell, for his part, will certainly go after Hargett if he gets the chance. Boston College and West Virginia aren't scheduled to play during the regular season, but even by the time the Big East tournament rolls around Bell figures the learning won't be complete.
"Oh, sure. I definitely go after them all. You have to. You have to find out what they've got," Bell said. "I remember when I was a freshman and we played Seton Hall and I had a pretty good game but we lost by about eight. Shaheen [Holloway, the Seton Hall point guard at the time] came up to me after the game and said, 'You should have won that game, man.'
"I took that with me for a long time. Shaheen knew that even though I had a pretty good game, there were so many little things that he knew that I didn't and he used them when they counted. Now I can see what he was talking about."
So the question remains how Hargett will handle things. At least one person has few fears.
"In all the years he's played the game, there are very few times Jonathan Hargett has ever stepped on court that he didn't prove he was the best player on the floor," said West Virginia coach Gale Catlett. "I think there are going to be bumps in the road, sure, but I think he'll get over them without much trouble."
Dave Hickman covers the Big East for the Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette. His "This Week in the Big East" column will appear weekly during the season.