Nov. 8, 2008
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. -
Michael Hart's basketball career has come full circle in the last year and half. The former Carthage College standout transferred to Northern Illinois in 2007 to finish his bachelor's degree, and after starring on the court during scrimmage sessions at the Student Recreation Center, walked onto the Huskie basketball team last season for his final year on campus.
Hart was in attendance for NIU's exhibition finale against Carthage College Saturday, but had some unexpected news to report to his former coaches and teammates on both teams: his career is now one step away from being professional, after being picked by the Bakersfield Jam with the 12th pick in the sixth-round of the 2008 National Basketball Development League (NBDL) Friday night.
The 6-foot-8, 215-pound forward will now enter a 10-day training camp with the Jam, and if he makes the cut, will become a full-time member of the team for the upcoming season.
"I was speechless," Hart said of his draft status. "If you told me I was going to be one step away from the NBA two years ago, I would have told you that you were crazy."
Since graduating from NIU, the Bolingbrook, Ill., native has been working out and training in his hometown. His emphasis was to improve his outside shooting touch.
"That's (improved shooting) what I was lacking last year," Hart said. "Playing that one year of Division I basketball really helped me in my preparation, as well."
In his lone season with the Huskies (2007-08), Hart appeared in all 28 games, registering eight starts. He was the team leader in field goal percentage (.527). At Carthage, he played two and a half seasons, appearing in 33 contests. He averaged 7.7 points and 3.7 rebounds per game in his junior season.
Upon enrolling at NIU, Hart became a regular on the basketball court at the Student Recreation Center. 2008 Mid-American Conference Freshman of the Year Darion "Jake" Anderson played against him in scrimmage sessions, and eventually approached head coach Ricardo Patton about inviting Hart to walk-on to the team.
"Jake came to me, and said that this kid could really help our team," said Patton. "We allowed him to walk-on, and he became an important addition to our program in our first year here.
"It's truly a success story," Patton said. "Here's a kid that has worked extra hard throughout his career, never gave up, graduated on time, and continued to chase his dream. Now he has a chance to pursue that dream at the next level. It's a story that everyone should be inspired by."
The Bakersfield Jam is directly affiliated with the Golden State Warriors and Orlando Magic of the National Basketball Association (NBA). However, players in the NBDL can be signed by any NBA team if a contract is agreed upon by both parties.
"The competition is going to be top-notch," said Hart. "A lot of the guys that play in the NBDL have already played in the NBA at times, and for whatever reason, didn't stay for long. This is going to be the most competitive level of basketball I have ever played, and it's going to be tough."
Patton likes Hart's chances of succeeding in training camp, and having a chance to make the team.
"The challenge for Michael on the basketball court is going to be to learn the complex offenses and defenses that are run at that level," said Patton. "Athletically, he'll be fine. He can run as fast and jump as high as anyone he'll be playing against."