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Canisius High grad Matt Hart thrilled with jump to D1 with GW

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.

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