Jershon Cobb was suspended. Jared Swopshire was overrated. Drew Crawford lost his season a torn labrum. Bill Carmody finally lost his job. Northwestern basketball seemed doomed, in nearly every way.
But during the troubled season – which included a season-ending nine game losing streak – one guy became a classic Northwestern story. Amid the tumult, former walk-on Reggie Hearn emerged as arguably the team’s best player. He did so with equal parts class and determination, placing him on my list of favorite athletes to cover.
Reggie Hearn wasn’t good considering he was a walk-on. He was simply a good Big Ten player. When someone needed to score for Northwestern, Hearn frequently came through. In his final year of eligibility he provided some of the best moments, sparking the surprise home win against Minnesota and singlehandedly torching Purdue in a blowout.
It provided a stark contrast to the James Montgomery III situation in that his attention was deserved. No doubt: Montgomery III worked hard, but realistically, they had one available scholarship for this season and no other players. It was a misleading but smart PR move to film it, and began the 2013-14 season that figures to be a circus.
After playing limited minutes in his sophomore year, Hearn stepped into the rotation the following season — one in which Northwestern finished just shy of NCAA Tournament contention. But in his senior campaign, with everyone falling down, Hearn kept the Wildcats competitive.
Hearn averaged a team-leading 13.4 points, and was named an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection. In his career finale – a bittersweet end to the year – he tried to hang in against Iowa. He scored 19 points and added 10 rebounds in the losing effort, but of course, earned everyone’s respect in the process.
He told Scott Powers of ESPN Chicago at the end of last year: “I remember a quote coach Carmody said about me at the beginning of Malcolm Gladwell’s book ‘Outliers,’ about a lot of successful people attribute to their hard work and everything, but the opportunities they had are really what get them there.”
But who cares? Even if guys ahead of him stay upright, Hearn plays a significant role for Northwestern. It was the humility, though, that separated Reggie Hearn. After I wrote glowing praise of his career, he thanked me. That hardly ever happens, even with recruiting profiles.
So I’m not remotely surprised that the D-League Idaho franchise drafted Hearn. You’re guaranteed a dedicated worker and skilled mid-range player with some defensive tenacity. You’re guaranteed a solid locker room guy with serious upside — a real testament to the Northwestern program.
There were some truly good moments from the 2012-13 basketball season, most of them involving Hearn. We can remember that Minnesota win, the solid efforts defining a team that had no reason competing in the Big Ten, and quiet resolve from a former walk-on and senior.
Let’s try to remember his career for as long as we possibly can.