Canisius High School graduate Matt Hart got his first experience as an enemy at the Reilly Center Saturday. Hart took the court for the George Washington basketball team before a sellout crowd of 5,480. It was raucous. There even were some well-informed Bona fans who were shouting at Hart by name.
This is what he had in mind when he made transferred to George Washington a year and a half ago. Hart, a first-team All-Western New Yorker in 2012, had been passed over by Division I schools during his senior year at Canisius due to his lack of size. He entered his senior year 5-10. So he went to Division III Hamilton College. He scored 15.3 ppg as a freshman and 20.6 ppg as a sophomore. Yet he yearned to play Division I, and he had grown a little, to 6-1. So he accepted a walk-on spot on the GW roster.
Hart had attended games at the Reilly Center numerous times before as a fan.
“It’s a total different experience when you’re on the court,” Hart said after GW’s 64-57 loss to the Bonnies. “Being from Buffalo, people know my name, so I was hearing things when I was on the court. But I don‘t let that affect me. It’s a great atmosphere to play in. I loved playing here.”
Hart is averaging 9.5 minutes and 4.5 points a game for the Colonials. He scored four points in seven minutes vs. the Bonnies.
“Playing in atmospheres like this, I live for this experience,” Hart said. “It’s great basketball and I’m loving every minute of it.”
George Washington has three senior starters, and Hart is a backup to shooting guard Patricio Garino, a 6-6 Argentinian who has NBA potential.
“Matt gives us a shooter, and we’re trying to get him to do a little more to increase his playing time,” said GW coach Mike Lonergan. “He has just struggled to get playing time because he plays a position with Garino and some of our best players, and we don’t have a lot of create-your-own-shot guys. We don’t have a quick point guard, so it’s hard to really get Matt shots. If he rebounds and his defense keeps improving, I think he’ll get more minutes. And I think he’ll play a much bigger role next year because of the graduation of Joe McDonald and Garino.”
Hart realized he had arrived in big-time college basketball in the second game of the season. George Washington upset then-No. 6 Virginia.
“During the Virginia game I remember them inbounding the ball and I was guarding Malcolm Brogdon,” Hart said, “and I was like I’m guarding Malcolm Brogdon right now. OK. This is cool.”
Brogdon was second-team All-America last year.
Hart’s father, Dave, starred at St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute and Buffalo State.