PROVO — At Bartlesville High School in Oklahoma, Noah Hartsock was a prolific scorer, and he could fill up the hoop both in the paint and from 3-point range. As a senior, he averaged 27.6 points per game — third-highest in the state — and earned all-state honors.
But since arriving at BYU, Hartsock has adapted his game, which is understandable because he plays with superstar Jimmer Fredette, who averages 26 points per game and is coming off a 47-point performance against Utah.
"In high school, I was pretty much the go-to guy. I took on that role," said Hartsock, a junior forward. "Here at BYU, we've got a lot of great athletes and a lot of great scorers. So I try to help the team where I can. When I came here, I knew it would be different from playing in high school. I'm excited for the role I have, just trying to be a rebounder and a defender and, sometimes, a scorer. I know Jimmer will be the main focus, and rightfully so, because he's a great player. But whatever I can do to complement his game and help us win, that's what I try to do."
Indeed, the 6-foot-8, 230-pound Hartsock helps in a variety of ways that are usually underappreciated or go unnoticed, like rebounding — he averages a team-high 5.8 boards a game — and playing tough defense.
Yet in recent weeks, Hartsock has also given the No. 11 Cougars a big lift with his 3-point shooting. Yes, Noah has come up big from behind the arc.
He went 3-for-3 from 3-point land and scored 19 points in a 90-82 win at Buffalo on Dec. 30. In BYU's 104-79 rout of the Utes last Tuesday, Hartsock buried back-to-back 3-pointers with about 10 minutes left in the contest. He's gone 10-for-15 from 3-point range in his last six games. Before that, he had connected on three 3-pointers in just five attempts. As a freshman, he didn't attempt one 3-pointer, and last season he was 1-for-4 from long distance.
"This year, I knew I'd have to score a little bit more than last year," said Hartsock, who averages 9.9 points a game and has hit 13-of-20 3-pointers this season. "I'm just trying to adapt my role to what the team needs to win. Some games I have to score more, some games not as much."
He'll continue to provide what his team needs when the Cougars (17-1, 3-0) host TCU on Tuesday (8 p.m., The mtn.) after enjoying a bye this weekend.
Hartsock's 3-point shooting provides BYU with another outside threat to go along with Fredette and Jackson Emery.
"I think that Noah has always had that capability. He was a great shooter in high school," said BYU coach Dave Rose, who has encouraged Hartsock to look more for the outside shot. "That was one of the things we really thought would fit well with us. But the first couple of years here, we didn't really need that. We had another guy playing that position that shot enough for him and a couple others.
"It's part of our makeup offensively to have a '4' man who can stretch the defense. I think that the last three or four weeks, Noah's confidence in his ability to hit that shot has really grown. And then what's happened is that the confidence in his teammates grows, and as he spaces the floor and gets into the spots that he is successful in and comfortable in, it just kind of steamrolls.
"Right now, Noah is shooting the ball from the perimeter with a lot of confidence, and we expect him to continue to do that," Rose said.
A little more than a month ago, on Dec. 11 at Energy Solutions Arena, Hartsock was steamrolled when he absorbed a hit to the face against Arizona. The force of the blow knocked him to the floor. After being helped to the locker room and checked by trainers, Hartsock thought he was still in New York, where the Cougars had played earlier in the week.
"I'm feeling good right now," said Hartsock, who served a mission in Salt Lake City prior to enrolling at BYU. His wife, Kendalyn, whom he married last summer, is a Cougar volleyball player. "The Christmas break gave me more time to rest, which was good. I'm ready for this conference stretch."
And Noah's ready to do whatever's asked of him — which includes nailing shots from behind the arc.