Noah Hutchins’ @_clutchins Twitter handle stands for the obvious. It is his way of shortening the ‘Clutch Hutchins’ nickname he has earned on the basketball court to something more manageable.
While the Park School senior may have taken a shortcut in this instance, it’s a rarity. Anyone who has earned the right to be called "clutch" usually embraces challenges and doesn’t subscribe to taking the easy way out.
Hutchins, the 2018-19 Allen Wilson Buffalo News Boys Basketball Player of the Year, is no different. A four-year starter, he is a repeat first-team All-Western New York selection and headlines the 61st edition of the All-WNY team.
“It’s a blessing. I can’t take the credit though,” said Hutchins, who thanked his parents, coaches, brother and teammates for pushing him to be better. “It’s definitely an honor, something I grew up thinking about, being the top person in the area. You have to give credit to the Man above.”
The All-WNY team and Player of the Year are selected by the Buffalo News in consultation with area coaches, officials and basketball aficionados. Only those selected to the first team are considered for the Allen Wilson Player of the Year honor.
During a season in which many experts expected the Pioneers to stumble due to key departures from their 2018 Federation Class A championship team, Hutchins – who hit the championship-winning, buzzer-beating layup – made sure they remained the undisputed top team in the area.
Hutchins increased his points per game average to 20.6 from last year’s 13.1. He dished out 5.5 assists per game and grabbed 5.0 rebounds per contest. He also continued handling the top defensive assignment for the Pioneers, guarding the other team’s best player, and finished with 2.5 steals per game.
Hutchins missed two games (a loss to Albany Academy and close win over St. Mary’s) midway through the campaign due to torn ligaments in his feet and a partial groin tear. The ailments continued to persist throughout the season, but Hutchins battled through the injuries and didn’t miss additional games.
A point guard who’s as adept at running a slow-down half-court offense as he is at guiding an up-tempo one, Hutchins not only raised his game but he put in the extra work in practice to make sure his new teammates – most of them sophomores – made the transition to varsity basketball as seamlessly as possible.
The end results:
• Park went 25-3. That included a 12-0 run through Monsignor Martin Athletic Association play as its only defeats came against eventual Federation champion Albany Academy (twice) and Long Beach Poly (Calif.).
• The Pioneers won their second straight Manhattan Cup title and then won their second straight state Catholic Class A championship.
• They returned to the Federation Tournament of Champions.
“We found a way to win and he led that charge,” Park coach Rich Jacob said. “He had to score more. He had to mentor five sophomores and ask those sophomores to rise a little faster and they responded. They responded to the coaching and they responded to Noah as their leader.
“He responded like every great fighter would. He led the charge on the court and in the locker room.”
“Whatever I had to do to help us win the game,” Hutchins said. “Last year, I was able to lead more by example. This year, I had to direct people more who were just learning the system.”
The sophomore class, led by Keonjay Carter, made an impact. So, too, did senior Quentin Nnagbo, the last remaining member of the triple towers of post players 6-8 or taller.
But the Pioneers wouldn't have won 25 games, captured back-to-back Manhattan Cups or reached the state Catholic playoff championships without contributions from Hutchins.
He willed them to a 62-55 comeback, overtime win over St. Joe’s in the Manhattan Cup semifinal, scoring 24 points in the game.
He scored a game-high 31 points in a 55-52 win over Holy Trinity in the state Catholic semifinals. He added 19 in a 48-47 win in the state Catholic final over Monsignor Farrell.
Hutchins has several Division I offers but may go to a prep school. The suitors include UB, Penn State, Yale, Columbia, Temple, George Washington, Binghamton, Canisius, Valparaiso, Cleveland State, Howard, Stony Brook, Saint Peter’s, Wake Forest and Fairfield.
“Noah Hutchins is one of those rare people and student athletes who excel in every aspect,” Jacob said. “As a teammate, as a leader, as a fierce competitor, he is the true definition of a winner.”