March 22, 2010
By John Heisler
Senior Associate Athletics Director for Media Relations
The names went whizzing by — one or two at a time, week by week, game by game, day by day.
That’s all part of the Luke Harangody legacy that continued to add building blocks, with the final structure now having had its finishing touches applied.
Adrian Dantley one week.
Patrick Ewing the next week.
Chris Mullin a few games later.
As the University of Notre Dame’s senior power forward wound down his amazing four-year ride with the Irish, the names he passed game after game rank among the Who’s Who of the NCAA and BIG EAST Conference career record books.
Actually, the die was cast last June when the burly 6-8 Schererville, Ind., product decided to pass up the 2009 NBA Draft and return for his fourth and final season in South Bend.
Truth be told, most everyone in the BIG EAST who had a realistic chance of passing “go” and heading to the NBA did so – other than Harangody and Villanova’s Scottie Reynolds. That ensured that Harangody would have a chance to end his career as one of the all-time greatest combination scorers and rebounders in the history of Notre Dame, the BIG EAST and the NCAA.
He’d been doing that since day one, scoring points and grabbing rebounds in bunches. Not a particularly highly-rated player nationally coming out of high school in northwest Indiana (he was a two-time Indiana all-state pick), Harangody proved to be a machine on the court – ringing up statistics like a pinball machine. Irish coach Mike Brey just kept popping quarters into the slot. Harangody averaged 15 points in his first five games as an Irish rookie and never looked back.
In fact, Notre Dame’s head coach continually reminded media and fans throughout Harangody’s senior year that they should appreciate what they were seeing from his energetic big man. Brey figures Harangody’s amazingly consistent production over such a long period of time so spoiled Irish fans that they won’t fully appreciate him until he’s gone next winter.
In the meantime, Harangody left his statistical rivals in the dust.
After averaging 21.8 points and 9.1 rebounds per game in 2009-10, he ended his career with 2,476 points and 1,222 rebounds. That sort of productivity doesn’t happen every day.
Harangody finished his career in the neighborhood of names like Elgin Baylor (2,500 points at Seattle), Bill Bradley (2,502 at Princeton) and Johnny Dawkins (2,537 at Duke).
His scoring/rebounding double put him in the same sentence with a gaudy list of college players with those sorts of combination totals.
There’s David Robinson – 2,669 points and 1,314 rebounds at Navy.
Elvin Hayes – 2,884 points and 1,602 rebounds at Houston.
Larry Bird – 2,850 points and 1,247 rebounds at Indiana State.
Oscar Robertson – 2,973 points and 1,338 rebounds at Cincinnati.
The hit names just kept on coming.
Only eight players in NCAA history can say they’ve topped both those Harangody totals – La Salle’s Lionel Simmons (3,217 and 1,429), Robertson (2,973 and 1,338), Hayes (2,884 and 1,602), Robinson (2,669 and 1,314), La Salle’s Michael Brooks (2,628 and 1,372), Wake Forest’s Dickie Hemric (2,587 and 1,802), Louisiana-Monroe’s Calvin Natt (2,581 and 1,285) and Baylor (2,500 and 1,559).
In BIG EAST games only, Harangody had 1,329 points and 662 rebounds – and he was on schedule to finish as the BIG EAST career leader in both categories until his February bone bruise that kept him out of five games entirely and limited his production in the five he played after returning.
He passed names like Mullin (St. John’s) and Kerry Kittles (Villanova) in the scoring category. He couldn’t quite catch Syracuse’s Lawrence Moten, the BIG EAST’s best-ever career scorer in league play with 1,405 points (Harangody ended up third behind Moten and Boston College’s Troy Bell).
He passed Michael Smith (Providence) and Danya Abrams (Boston College) in the rebound category, finishing second behind Derrick Coleman (Syracuse) who had 701.
Some of the best combo scorers/rebounders in BIG EAST statistical history have been names like John Wallace (Syracuse), Zendon Hamilton (St. John’s) and Abrams. Ask around the BIG EAST office and the name that comes to mind there is Coleman.
Hall of Fame Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim has been a head coach in the BIG EAST since 1976 – and when he and his team stopped through South Bend in January he called Harangody “as good an offensive big guy as I’ve seen in this league.” That’s a strong statement – and this about a player who, early on at Notre Dame, wasn’t convinced he was good enough to play in the BIG EAST. And don’t forget that Boeheim coached Coleman.
Remarkably, Harangody goes about his business of running up numbers maybe a bit differently than your typical 6-8 brute.
He may not out-jump you. He may not over-power you. But his sheer hustle and flair for the game make him insatiable on the court. He plays a cerebral game in which he measures his defenders and figures out how to beat them.
He’s got a sweet little jump hook that’s almost a push shot and seems to be something he can execute from anywhere near the rim. Taller, rangier defenders around the lane? No matter. Harangody can take his game outside — he wasn’t shy at all about banging in 15-foot jump shots and even three-pointers.
Go back to the 2007-08 season, Harangody’s sophomore campaign, in a late-season battle at 13th-ranked Louisville with the league lead on the line. The 17th-rated Irish didn’t win (the final was 90-85), but they cut into a 19-point Cardinal lead thanks to 40 points by Harangody, including the first three three-pointers of his career within a 69-second span in the final two minutes. And, by the way, in addition to hitting 16 of 28 shots that night, Harangody notched a dozen rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocked shots (while playing only 32 minutes). He’s the only Irish player to ever score 40 points in a BIG EAST game – and his effort that night probably cemented his BIG EAST Player of the Year trophy.
How long and how well did Harangody hang around BIG EAST gymnasiums? He finished with 64 career double-doubles and no other current player in the league has anywhere near half that many.
Think about that. That’s more than an entire season’s worth of scoring and rebounding games in double figures compared to what any other current BIG EAST player has accomplished.
No BIG EAST player has ever averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds per conference game in a career. Harangody had a solid chance to accomplish that (he ended up at 19.2 and 9.5) until his injury. The only three BIG EAST players who had better averages than Harangody in both categories were Notre Dame’s Troy Murphy (21.3 and 9.89), St. John’s Walter Berry (19.8 and 9.69) and Georgetown’s Mike Sweetney (19.6 and 9.6).
And, so, Harangody continued to motor past name after name in the record books.
One week LaPhonso Ellis (1,076 career rebounds).
The next week Lew Alcindor (2,325 career points) and Jerry West (2,309 career points).
Austin Carr’s Notre Dame record of 2,560 career points remained barely intact.
If you’re an Irish fan – or even just a fan of college basketball – we hope you took time to savor what Harangody brought to the office every day.
You may not see anyone like him come by this way again any time soon.
— ND —