When Collin Hartman, a forward out of Cathedral High School in Indianapolis, came to Indiana, the Hoosiers were coming off a year in which they had spent a great deal at the top of the college basketball world before flaming out in the NCAA Tournament. The guts of that team had moved on, and the guys in Hartman's freshman class were going to be leaned on heavily to get the Hoosiers back where they needed to be.
He was the lowest ranked of that highly-touted recruiting class, and he is the only one still around:
- Noah Vonleh (turned pro after one season)
- Luke Fischer (transferred after one semester)
- Troy Williams (turned pro after three seasons)
- Stanford Robinson (transferred after two seasons)
- Devin Davis (dismissed / transferred after two seasons)
In a perfect world, the six guys in that class, combined with Yogi Ferrell, were going to make up the next core that Indiana could rely on for two or three years. As we know, the backslide in 2013-2014 was far worse than anticipated, Hartman couldn't get on the court and was injured practicing for a postseason that the Hoosiers weren't invited to, missing most of the offseason. By the time 2014-2015 rolled around, only Williams, Robinson, and Hartman were both healthy and part of the program. And by 2015- 2016, only Williams and Hartman remained.
But they both held up their end of the bargain, becoming vital cogs for an Indiana team that, after a semester of figuring itself out, blasted off in Big Ten play and won the conference by two games. Shafted with a five-seed by the tournament committee, their win over Kentucky to send them back to the Sweet Sixteen made believers out of nearly everyone. But the run was put to bed by North Carolina, the eventual National Runner-Up.
With Troy Williams leaving with his degree and a desire to get paid for his talents, Collin Hartman stood alone as the program's only senior, expected to play a large role in the transition to the post-Yogi era. But for the second time in his short career, his offseason was derailed by another knee injury, this time leaving him unable to take the court for one minute of his senior season. He could always return next year via a medical redshirt, but he's made no indication either way. His decision to go through Senior Night tonight certainly seems to suggest which way he is leaning.
While it's impossible to quantify what Hartman could or couldn't have done for the team this year, it'd be tough to convince anyone that the Hoosiers wouldn't be a win (or three) better off with his efforts.
While Collin rarely stuffed the stat sheet (5 PPG / 3 RPG in 2016) he was a highly efficient player in his 20 minutes per game (56% from 2, 40% from 3) and had the ability and, perhaps more importantly, the mentality to guard any spot on the floor, spending a good deal of his sophomore campaign as Indiana's "center" in a five-out offense. By his junior year, he had become the kind of do-it-all glue guy that every great team has, and it was a role he really took to and excelled at, not unlike Will Sheehey before him.
I always come back to this sequence against Iowa, as it perfectly summarizes what he meant to the team:
He was always opportunistic on both ends of the floor, frequently looking for the best way to contribute to the team, even if that didn't always equate to a lot of scoring. He was a patient, cerebral player who will probably never get enough credit for the fact that he was also a hell of an athlete. Case in point:
Injuries are the most tragic part of this game, and they robbed Collin Hartman of the career he deserved. Should he decide that this is it for him, he won't leave empty-handed. He's an outright Big Ten Champion, a key player on of one of the most fun and memorable runs for an Indiana basketball team in recent memory.