|Four-star wing Josh Hart is one of the more aggressive scorers in the class of 2013. (Nike)|
Josh Hart is regarded as a scorer who does most of his damage going to the basket off the dribble.
But he wasn't always a driver. In fact, he was known as a shooter up until about two years ago.
“I was on the under-16 Takeover team, and Kenny Johnson was my coach,” Hart said, referring to the now-assistant coach at Indiana. “At the Peach Jam, he took me, Pat Holloway and Stan Robinson aside at halftime of one of the games and said, ‘You're not shooting anymore. Drive.'”
Hart, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard from Sidwell Friends (D.C.), is now one of the more aggressive scorers in his class. He absorbs contact effectively and can finish at the rim through traffic. During 19 games at the EYBL in the spring, Hart shot 50 percent from the field and averaged 11.5 points and 6.5 rebounds.
Still, he doesn't want people to forget about his shooting ability.
“Everyone stopped talking to me about my jump shot,” Hart said. “A lot of people don't know, I'm a pretty good mid-range to 3-point shooter.”
Ranked No. 83 in CBSSports.com's Top 100, Hart was rumored to have trimmed his list of schools recently – but he said he hasn't. He has a top three of Villanova, Penn State and Rutgers, with Miami (Fl.) and Xavier rounding out his list of suitors.
Villanova coach Jay Wright has made Hart a priority over the past few months, and some other commitments around the country forced the Wildcats to turn up the heat even more.
“I really like their coaching staff,” Hart said. “I've known them for quite awhile now. They definitely care about their players, and they have a great track record with developing guards and putting them into the league.”
An interesting note about Villanova: Hart's former AAU coach, Doug Martin, was hired as an assistant coach in the summer – before stepping down due to inaccuracies in his resume. Hart said he would have loved for Martin to be there, but Martin's absence won't affect Hart's decision.
“It won't really matter,” he said.
Hart took an official visit to Rutgers over the weekend, and the Scarlet Knights' optimism has him excited about their program.
“Coach [Mike] Rice's enthusiasm is really great,” he said. “They're an up-and-coming program, and they had some major wins last year. The players they have now are really great.”
Penn State has been involved with Hart longer than any other school, and he said in July that the football sanctions would not have an affect on his opinion of the Nittany Lions. His trip to State College recently only cemented that idea.
“I've had a relationship with them for almost two years now,” Hart said. “That program, they've definitely turned it around. With the adversity at Penn State, I got to see the support they have for a lot of the athletics. You don't really see that at a lot of places.”
Hart has taken official visits to Penn State, Villanova and Rutgers, and is hoping to take a trip to Miami (Fl.) next Monday and Tuesday. He also wants to get to Xavier at some point before he makes his decision.
With in-home visits starting this week, Hart has been busy. He hosted Villanova and Xavier so far, and also met with Miami (Fl.) on Tuesday night.
He doesn't expect to welcome Penn State and Rutgers on in-home visits, but that doesn't meant those two schools are behind the eight ball in his recruitment. Hart has been to Penn State three times, and he was just at Rutgers for an entire weekend.
“I don't think they need an in-home visit,” Hart said.
Xavier and Miami are playing catch-up to the other three schools in Hart's top five, but both hoped to make up ground with this week's in-home visits.
“Xavier was one of the first schools to offer me, but after time, they kind of let off a little bit. I hadn't really heard from them too much, but they picked it up recently with Dez Wells not returning to school,” he said. “With Miami, the relationship isn't as good. They came on late.”
Hart was aiming for a late October decision, but he said he's getting tired and stressed out by all the visits and attention. As a result, he might make a decision in the next couple of weeks – and no later than mid-October.
With that said, Hart can't break the tie between his suitors right now.
“Everything is so close right now,” he said.