Mike Hart The Soul Of This WCC Championship Zag Team
By Matt Breach
Special to GoZags.com
SPOKANE, Wash. - Five years ago, Michael Hart was no different than any other student at Gonzaga. He could walk around campus virtually unnoticed. No one asked for his autograph and he spent more time watching basketball than playing.
Now the former walk-on is a fan favorite, as beloved as any Zag. He's also part of a senior class that has accomplished as much, if not more, than any in Gonzaga basketball history.
Hart and fellow classmates Elias Harris and Guy Landry Edi were honored Saturday during the Senior Day festivities that preceded second-ranked Gonzaga's 81-52 thrashing of Portland. The game was their last at the McCarthey Athletic Center and capped an undefeated run through the West Coast Conference.
"It was a special, special afternoon to be able to send those three guys out that way," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "One of the neat things we do here is we send them out in style, especially this year."
All three seniors were in the starting lineup against Portland. Edi, who has played two years for GU after transferring from Midland College in Texas, made his 29th start while Hart made his 34th start in 117 career games. Harris, remarkably, started for the 130th time in his illustrious career. The trio accounted for 24 points, 12 rebounds, six steals and two assists in their final home game.
During their four years as Zags, Harris and Hart have won 107 games compared to just 26 losses. They've helped Gonzaga continue its domination of the WCC. The Bulldogs have gone 52-8 in conference games over that span, claiming three regular-season championships as well as a tournament title.
Hart, so respected by fans, teammates and coaches for his hustle and unselfishness, has twice been named to the WCC All-Academic squad. He carries a 3.70 GPA and is currently pursuing his master's in business administration.
Harris, meanwhile, may very well go down as one of the greatest Bulldogs ever. He has scored 1,800 points in his career, the fifth most in school history. He has also recorded 952 rebounds, the second most ever corralled by a Zag. He finished the game against Portland one rebound shy of the 27th double-double in his career.
The seniors are a major reason why Gonzaga has stormed to a 29-2 record. Never has a GU team, or a WCC school for that matter, won more games in a season. Come Monday morning, the Bulldogs should be the top-ranked team in the nation, which would be a first for a program that has achieved so much.
"We got a really, really special thing going right here," Few told the crowd following Saturday's game. "Savor these things because these guys have given everything they possibly could for all of this season. We're going to try to keep it going, but we need to enjoy nights like tonight because they're awfully special."
Harris, Hart and Edi certainly did. Here are their thoughts following the game.
On what Senior Day meant to him ... "It was a really, really special day for me. It was my last time playing in here with such a great team and in such an unbelievable environment with fans that are so loving and give so much. That means the world to me and I will never forget that the rest of my life. It's really sad I'm close to being done here, but I guess that's just part of life."
On how much he enjoyed Senior Day ... "Unbelievable fun. I'm sad that it's over to be honest with you. I could play another 40 minutes."
On finishing undefeated in the WCC ... "It's the first time that's ever happened to me, so it means the world to me. All the hard work and sweat and the things we put into practice, it just finally pays off with a championship. That's one thing no one can take from us ever again."
On when the emotions of the day finally sunk in ... "I think when I came down the stairs and they called my name out at the end - that's when it hit me the most. I almost shed a tear. I held it back pretty well, but it was emotional. It was an unbelievable feeling to be on the court as a senior. From where I've been to where I am now, I can't even put it into words. It's such a special experience."
On knowing he still has games to play ... "We have so many more goals to accomplish and we are going to continue playing for a while here. That makes it easier because I'm not thinking this is my last game. I feel like I've got some games left here."
On the poise this team has demonstrated all year ... "To come out with energy and passion every night, it sounds easy but it's not necessarily easy to do that for 16 games. To play that hard and that together - we were bringing it every night and I think the record speaks for itself."
Guy Landry Edi
On the thought of never playing at home again ... "Yes, it is hard, it's really hard. But at the same time, you have to put that on the side and play the game, which we did pretty well obviously. The emotion is there, man, there is a lot of emotion. I can't find the words to express how I really feel about this."
On reclaiming the WCC championship ... "At the end of last year we said we need to come back and get what belongs here. And we did it. We stayed together, played well together and we did it."
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