PSU freshman finds playing post is all guts, little glory
He can still remember the feeling Ñ the Big Man on Court feeling at Westview High School.
'I was always the guy who was one step above everybody, the quote-unquote star,' says Marshal Hartman, the Class 4A player of the year in 2002. 'In high school, I could play the '5,' the '4,' the '3,' and I would just roam around Ñ if I wanted to post up I could; if I wanted to play outside I could.'
'I'm a freshman, not as much of a leader, but I'm going to take the charges and do the dirty work,' says Hartman, who has started 22 of 24 games for Portland State. 'I'll let other guys go score and do that kind of stuff, and I'll do the dirty work. At this point.'
Not that Hartman had an epiphany and all of a sudden wanted to be the grinder. After redshirting last year, Hartman spent all summer shooting baskets, expecting to play the small forward position and get up 10 or 12 shots each game. And score the basketball.
But coach Heath Schroyer told him to start practicing at the center position. Translation: Get to the low block, kid, and stay there. He hasn't left since. The 6-7 Hartman had to make the transition to frontcourt power player.
'I got kind of frustrated,' he says, 'because I'm in a position where I'm banging all the time and playing against taller guys. It's taken me a little bit to adjust.'
There were days when Schroyer screamed at octaves only known to birds and dogs to get through to Hartman. And there were times Schroyer literally grabbed Hartman's jersey during timeouts in games to make his point about playing defense, playing hard, communicating with teammates and such things.
All along, Schroyer knew Hartman could take it.
'It's nothing personal,' Hartman says.
Twenty-four games into the season, with PSU 11-13 overall and 5-6 in the balanced Big Sky Conference Ñ that is, balanced under 10-1 Eastern Washington, whom the Viks play Saturday Ñ Hartman seems to have finally got the point.
'I've put my frustration out of my mind,' he says. 'I've tried to attack the glass and score more aggressively. I'm back to being the aggressive player, diving after the ball, taking charges, doing whatever it takes to win.'
Call him a Schroyer convert. 'Like I've told everybody, if Schroyer asked me to run through a wall to win, I'd go do it,' he says. Wow. No wonder Schroyer calls him 'the glue' that holds the Vikings together.
Schroyer's take: 'He does everything right. É He's got a very advanced basketball IQ. É He does the little things. É He's our best team defender. É Marshal's a tough kid. É A nuts and bolts player. É He's versatile. É An underrated passer.'
Hartman appreciates the compliments. 'I'd like to get to be the kind of player Seamus (Boxley) is, where I go inside-outside, averaging a double-double,' he says. 'As of right now, I'm sitting back, because I'm an underclassman and I have to wait my turn. If it means two shots a night, I get two shots a night.'
Indeed, Hartman envisions himself being a '15 points-a-night guy' in the Big Sky when the likes of Boxley, Blake Walker, Will Funn and Seth Scott depart.
These days, when banging leads to foul trouble or mistakes and he finds himself on the bench, the scoring prowess that made him a Class 4A star seems pretty distant.
'I never get into rhythm,' he says. 'Other nights, I get used to the banging, I get shots up, and I keep shooting and shooting.'
In the past seven games, he has scored 17 points against Northern Arizona, 13 points twice and 11 points once. In the other three games: four, three and zero. He's shooting .432 from the field and only .245 (12 of 49) from 3-point territory, averaging 6.4 points and 3.5 rebounds.
Schroyer has waited all year for Hartman to show some consistency shooting the ball. At other times, it seemed like the Vikings never worked to get Hartman shots. Still, 'he's always doing things that don't show up on the stat sheet,' Schroyer says, like taking four charges against NAU.
Hartman says his inconsistency started when he made the switch from small forward to primarily inside player, stopped shooting jump shots in practice and started working on post moves. And, he says, Schroyer's practices usually entail about an hour of defensive drills at the start. Offense seemed to be secondary, at least early on, which left the many transfers on the PSU roster scrambling like fish out of water.
'His defensive plans are awesome,' Hartman says of Schroyer.
Meanwhile, Hartman, who got recruited by former coach Joel Sobotka and stuck out the transition, says he will do whatever Schroyer tells him to do. 'I'm the type of guy, no matter where I'm at, if I don't like it or if I do like it, it doesn't matter,' he says. 'I'm going to do what the coach asks.'
And he hopes to remain at Portland State, although he pauses when asked whether he will stay there for another three years.
'Um É,' he says, chuckling, 'you never know what can happen.'