Provo • When Noah Hartsock and Charles Abouo are introduced to the crowd on Saturday afternoon before the Brigham Young Cougars take on Portland in their West Coast Conference men’s basketball regular-season finale at the Marriott Center, one simple word will and should be used to describe the senior tandem.
Tipoff for Senior Night is at 4 p.m., and the game pitting Portland (6-22, 3-12 WCC) and BYU (23-7, 11-4) will be televised by BYUtv.
Abouo, who has played in every game since his freshman year began in 2008, has been a part of 110 BYU wins, second only to Jimmer Fredette (112). Hartsock, who is questionable for the game due to the left knee strain that limited his playing time to just seven minutes in Thursday’s 74-63 loss at Gonzaga, has played in 105 wins, fourth-most all-time behind Fredette, Abouo and Jackson Emery (106).
“It’s been a great ride,” said Abouo, the ironman. “There is still a lot of winning left to do to get that [wins] record, but it will be cool if that could happen. … It speaks more to the teams that I have been on, and the coaching staff I have played for, and some really good players that I have been able to play with. I don’t think it has anything to do with me.”
Hartsock hasn’t been made available to the media since after the Santa Clara game, when he strained his knee in a scary fall, but has also described his career in the self-deprecating manner that has endeared him to so many Cougar fans. He often jokes that it only took him four years to become BYU’s third-leading shot blocker (170), while Shawn Bradley (177) got to No. 2 behind Greg Kite (208) in just one year.
Neither Hartsock nor Abouo began their careers with much fanfare, partly because Fredette was a sophomore in 2008-09 and just starting to blossom, and senior Lee Cummard was the go-to guy and leading scorer that year.
Hartsock was a prolific scorer in high school out of Bartlesville, Okla., but those big numbers were mostly forgotten by BYU fans when he returned from an LDS Church mission taken right out of high school — to Salt Lake City, of all places.
Abouo prepped at Logan High, but was lightly recruited, and young enough to attend a prep school on the East Coast after high school. After helping Brewster Academy go 31-4 in 2007-08, he drew a lot more interest from large schools, but stuck with his commitment to BYU.
“It has been amazing,” Abouo said. “It has been a lot of fun, and I’ve enjoyed it. But the more we can keep winning, the more I can keep playing for BYU, so I think I am trying to make it last as long as possible.”
Coach Dave Rose said Abouo’s career has been marked by steady improvement and his desire to work hard in every practice, along with an unselfish attitude. Abouo averaged 2.9 points a game as a freshman, 4.6 as a sophomore, 7.2 as a junior and 11.1 as a senior.
But Abouo doesn’t buy the suggestion that he has overachieved, or exceeded expectations at BYU.
“Not really, just because I have worked pretty hard, and this staff has always had confidence in me since I was a younger player,” he said. “ I definitely have enjoyed the success we have had here as a team. I am looking forward to help take us as far as possible. Hopefully our success continues.”
Playing in the shadow of Fredette and Emery until this season, Hartsock is often referred to as “Old Reliable” by his teammates. He has scored in double figures in 27 of BYU’s 30 games this season, making up for the fact that he’s not a “high-flyer,” in Rose’s words, with top-notch instincts and a killer mid-range game.
“Noah embraces the fact that he can get a lot done on the floor in a lot of different ways than a lot of guys,” Rose said. “Confidence is such a big key in your ability to be successful. Noah’s really confident in his ability and what he can do.”
• Charles Abouo has played in all 136 BYU games since his freshman year — and 110 of them were victories. Only Jimmer Fredette (112) won more games.
• Noah Hartsock has played in 105 wins, one away from tying Jackson Emery (106) for third on the school’s all-time list.
Portland at BYU
P At the Marriott Center (Provo)
Tipoff • Saturday, 4 p.m.
TV • BYUtv
Radio • 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
Records • BYU 23-7, 11-4; Portland 6-22, 3-12
Series • BYU leads, 6-0
Last meeting • BYU, 79-60 (Feb. 4)
About the Cougars • Their five-game winning streak was snapped by Gonzaga 74-63 on Thursday night in Spokane. … They will honor seniors Noah Hartsock and Charles Abouo before the game.
About the Pilots • They were blown out 70-43 by St. Mary’s on Senior Night on Thursday, but senior Nemanja Mitrovic scored a team-high 14 points.