Senior forward Collin Hartman sits alone.
Away from the post-game fray in the locker room after a Big Ten Tournament victory against Iowa, he quietly flips through his phone.
Unlike the rest of teammates, he isn’t wearing an IU jersey, nor is he getting a barrage of questions from media members.
Instead, he’s acted as another assistant coach. Hartman worked to remain part of the team after undergoing season-ending knee surgery in October.
He found his place in being a vocal presence on the Hoosiers’ bench this season, as he was constantly barking out instructions to his teammates on the court and sometimes even losing his voice during the course of a game.
“I don’t want to be a quote-unquote ‘baggage carrier,’” Hartman said. “I wanted to bring something valuable to the team. Coaching, being vocal, being upbeat and having a good energy every day is what I’ve found to be the best way that I can contribute to this team.”
Now, Hartman’s decision whether he wants to come back for one more season wearing the jersey he grew up idolizing looms. Before former IU Coach Tom Crean’s departure, Hartman said he was undecided about using a fifth year of eligibility. Still though, Hartman’s mother, Melissa Compton, said she doesn’t believe the Crean news will affect his decision, whatever it may be. Even if he has played his final game as a Hoosier, Hartman surely left his mark.
The 2016-17 season wasn’t the first time Hartman had to show resiliency as a Hoosier.
After a difficult freshman season in 2013-14, Hartman said he didn’t feel like he belonged because he scored only 11 points all season, and the Hoosiers missed the NCAA Tournament. After the Big Ten Tournament that year, during a practice, he tore his ACL and began the arduous path back onto the court.
“He had to dig deep to find inner strength,” Compton said. “He had to grow up fast and rely on his support system.”
During the following two seasons, the fruits of the rehabilitation paid off for Hartman, who made 58 three-pointers and started 26 games. The statistics were never gaudy, but he did almost everything on the court for IU.
“I think one of the best things to happen to me was my first injury, tearing my ACL,” Hartman said. “That really gave me a work ethic that I don’t think I really had before and it gave me a drive and hunger to somewhat prove people wrong who didn’t really believe in me because I didn’t really believe in myself anyway my freshman year.”
The seeds of his mentality that helped him become an integral part of a Big Ten Championship team were planted in high school.
During his freshman year at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis, his mom said the coaches allowed him to play his type of basketball with no repercussions, his mom said.
That all changed with coach Andy Fagan, who arrived at Cathedral before Collin’s sophomore season.
“It was more of a hard-nosed coaching style, and Collin had to learn to do it for the first time truly like somebody else wanted him to play,” Compton said. “Where everybody else was just benefiting from his talents, coach Fagan made him change his talents or adjust his talents to fit the team.”
She said Fagan was crucial to Hartman’s development as a basketball player and a person, and Cathedral kept him grounded and humble.
Hartman committed to IU early on in his sophomore year of high school. Instead of gloating about it, his high school college counselor Kathy Pivonka, said he remained humble.
“He was very private about it and very mature,” Pivonka said. “I think that’s what made him very special. It would be very easy for him. He came in as a freshman, everybody knew he was going to go big places, and he handled it with such class.”
Even as the accolades came for Hartman and the colleges came to see him practice, he remained the same person. He was someone his teammates could turn to, and his mom says that his genuine love of people is something that makes him special.
“His relatability,” high school teammate and Notre Dame junior forward Matt Gregory said. “He can relate to a bunch of guys, all different types, really good locker-room guy, great glue guy.”
Being a leader is something that his mom says he’s always exhibited, as it just comes naturally to him.
Over the course of high school, he matured into the leader of a talented team. His senior year, he was the vocal presence on a state championship team.
“I think his passing goes hand in hand with his ability to coach on the court,” Gregory said. “He was able to see fifty-percent more of the court than your average high school player could see. It was really opened up to him, so he was able to share that with other people too, which made it really beneficial to have him out there.”
Prior to Hartman’s senior day this season, Crean praised him for being a huge part of his team’s success over his time at IU and said he knows just how much he missed him this season.
“He’s done a fantastic job this year of being able to do everything he could possibly do inside his senior year without playing,” Crean said. “He puts so much into it. He’s really an example in improvement.”
For one night in February, though, that decision faded away.
The biggest moment of Hartman’s season arrived in a flash. Senior night came and went, and like during every game this season, his biggest contribution came in the form of instruction and applause. He asked his girlfriend, IU cheerleader Hayley Daniel, to step forward.
Then came the moment he had been planning ever since he texted his mom pictures of wedding rings in October.
Bending down on his knee, he proposed to Daniel, and allowed the world to take part in the happy occasion.
“He always knew he wanted to do it senior night,” his mom said. “He wanted to share it with his world. His world is all the family that was there, all the fans that was there, his teammates, the staff. That is his world and he wanted to share it with his world.”
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