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Preseason Player Profiles: Elijah Hardy

How much of the sophomore PG will we see this season?

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 20 Utah at Washington Photo by Joseph Weiser/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Elijah Hardy; Sophomore; Oakland, California

6’2, 170 lbs. Class of 2018: 3 stars, #201 overall (247 Composite)

Italy Stats: 20 minutes, 2.0 points, 1.8 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 2.8 steals, 20% FG, 0.0% 3pt, 100% FT

Getting a point guard in the class of 2018 was absolutely paramount given that neither David Crisp or Jaylen Nowell were long for the team and neither were true point guards to begin with. Sure enough, both are off the roster through graduation and early entry to the NBA. Hardy was one of three targets in that class along with Marcus Zegarowski (who wound up at Creighton) and Xavier Johnson (who had a fantastic freshman year at Pitt). But Hardy was the west coast guy and he was the first to hop in the boat and give the Huskies their first pass first point guard since...Nigel Williams-Goss?

Offensive Game

I didn’t list Eljiah Hardy’s 2018-19 statistics above because they would be a little misleading. Hardy broke his hand less than 2 minutes into his college basketball career at the end of the blowout loss to Auburn. The injury kept him out for essentially all of the non-conference and ruined any chances of being able to contribute as a meaningful part of the rotation.

When Hardy was in the game it was usually with the walk-ons at the end of a blowout. Hardy noticeably took advantage of these opportunities to assert himself as a primary scorer. He passed the eye test multiple times in those scant 18 minutes and enjoyed trying to make a fool out of the opposing backup. The end result was scoring over 25 points per 36 minutes with 0 assists.

Of course, that was largely a product of the circumstances. The style of play we saw in Italy and in high school was vastly different. On Hardy’s high school highlight reel you could tell that he delighted in making the difficult pass. He released the ball either from unusual arm angles or while not looking. On a mixtape those passes all result in assists. The reality is of course that for every thread the needle or behind the back assist there is likely at least one to two turnovers. It was clear on day one that Hardy was likely the best passer on the roster but he would need to reign in those instincts to see major playing time.

The version that we saw of Hardy in Italy was certainly pass first maybe even to a fault. He had 40% more assists than shot attempts over the four games and delighted in pushing the ball in transition or getting it down low to UW’s talented post scorers. There were of course some turnovers but if he has anything close to a 2.5:1 assist to turnover ratio like he did in Italy then the coaching staff will be thrilled with his play.

There were concerns about Hardy’s shot coming out of Bishop O’Dowd and he was 0/6 from deep in Italy. At this point though there’s just not a big enough sample size to know whether he’s going to be able to become an average shooter. If he can’t then it makes it very tough on the offensive spacing which will already be condensed with such a big heavy roster.

Defensive Game

There wasn’t exactly a lot of defense being played during Hardy’s 18 minutes of playing time at the end of blowouts last year for us to study. Elijah has a solid frame at 6’2 but he’s not exactly the physical freak you would ideally like to have at the top of the zone. He’s bigger and longer though than David Crisp who was at the very least solid at that spot when he had a player like Matisse next to him.

We’ve heard quotes from the coaches this summer saying that Hardy is the best on ball man-to-man defender on the roster. It sounds like he would’ve been the perfect Lorenzo Romar point guard back before they changed the hand check rules. There’s still plenty of room for that type of player in the Mike Hopkins defense.

For one, the team played a lot of man in Italy and we might see some more possessions of it this season. Second, there are still a ton of man principles for the guys playing at the front of the zone. People worried about Matisse Thybulle’s defense adjusting from the zone to the NBA. But if you’re up top and a player drives then your first responsibility is to cut off that drive just like you would in man. Those skills can translate.

Hardy finished second on the team in steals in Italy at 2.8 per game in 20 minutes. During Thybulle’s epic season last year he had essentially one steal per 9 minutes of gameplay. Hardy had one every 7 minutes in Italy. This is where I state STRENGTH OF COMPETITION AND LOW SAMPLE SIZE in all caps but suffice it to say that the first impression is that Hardy’s instincts, tenaciousness, and quickness will allow him to be above average in this regard sooner than later.

Expectations for 2019-20

I saved all of the point guards for last in the hopes that by the time this was released we would have definitive word on whether Quade Green’s waiver had been granted or denied. Alas, the coaching staff says that they still have no word on that front. It feels like there have been about 2-3 approvals per day coming across my twitter feed and very few denials so I’m optimistic about the chances. And it’s also possible the staff is keeping it under wraps as gamesmanship before the Baylor contest.

But when it comes to my projections I’m going to use the information I already have which assumes the status quo where Green won’t be eligible until roughly 1/3rd of the way through the season.

My expectation is that Hardy will be out there for the opening tip if Green isn’t eligible. We’ll get to Tsohonis next time but the two essentially split playing time in Italy and I think something in the range of 60/40 or 65/35 with the edge to Hardy is reasonable for those 10 games. The extra experience and year in the system plus the need to pair a pass first option alongside Carter, Stewart, and McDaniels makes me think Hardy gets the call with the starters.

After Green comes back I’m not sure what happens to his playing time. I think Hardy’s game is better suited playing with the 1’s so I wouldn’t be shocked if Tsohonis maintained the backup spot in that case. I’ll admit that the numbers below amount to hedging my bets that Hardy/Tsohonis each get 5ish minutes of time when Green is out there and closer to 50/50 when he’s not. We’ll see.

Per Game Projections*: 8 minutes, 2.0 points, 0.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 43.9% FG, 36% 3pt, 70% FT

*If we find out before the Baylor game is eligible then I reserve the right to change my projections to accommodate that news.

Check out the earlier previews if you missed them here: RaeQuan Battle, Jamal Bey, Nahziah Carter, Jaden McDaniels, Hameir Wright, Nate Roberts, Bryan Penn-Johnson, Sam Timmins, and Isaiah Stewart.