A final road trip for Stanford’s Matt Haryasz

Having watched Matt Haryasz dominate the local high school basketball scene as a high school senior, I had a chance to watch him play once more as a college senior. This column was written for the Arizona Daily Sun

Haryasz saves his best for final trip to AZ

January 21, 2006
 
By Ed Odeven

TEMPE

In his collegiate grand finale in the Grand Canyon State, Stanford’s Matt Haryasz delivered two terrific performances.

He scored a career-high 25 points in the Cardinal’s 90-81 overtime loss Thursday at the University of Arizona.

The encore? The 6-foot-11 senior forward from Page High School topped his career-best two days later, finishing with 27 points in a 70-64 victory over Arizona State Saturday before 7,386.

It was a splendid all-around game for Haryasz. He finished 9-for-15 from the field, 9-for-9 from the charity stripe, grabbed 10 rebounds, blocked two shots and dished out two assists.

“After a tough loss like we had against Arizona, we were down eight (actually seven, 48-41 with 11:10 left in the second half) to battle back in the second half is good for us,” Haryasz told reporters in a postgame interview.

Moments later, I walked and talked with him down the long hallway at Wells Fargo Arena, from the Stanford locker room to the arena floor. Haryasz signed autographs for a few moments and then got a big hug from his mom, Sandy.

“Great game, honey,” she said.

Then we continued our conversation.

“This is a special game for me,” he said. “To go out of ASU with a win my last time coming through is just pretty nice.”

It was also special for the 100 or so Page residents who made the long trek to the Valley to see Haryasz play one last time in Arizona. Some family relatives also made the trip from Iowa to watch.

This group included his ex-high school coach, Aaron Anderson. The Sand Devil throng, which greeted Haryasz with hugs and high fives and smiles, took several photos with its favorite former Grand Canyon Region big man after the game.

Anderson attended all four of the Stanford-ASU games during the past four years in Tempe. He plans to attend the Cardinal’s Senior Night – a game against ex-NAU coach Ben Howland’s UCLA Bruins on March 4 in Palo Alto, Calif.

Like the rest of the Page-turned Cardinal faithful (thanks to the big fella wearing No. 52), Anderson was all smiles after the game.

“It’s (been) a pleasure to be able to work with him and watch him be successful,” Anderson said. “That’s a reward in coaching – to get to see young men grow up and do well and to give back to society.”

For Anderson, and others who have gotten to know the gentle giant, being at a Stanford game has become a treat in the past four years.

“He’s a great kid,” the coach said. “When you see everybody here, they all love him because he’s very warm and receptive to everybody. He’s a unique individual.”

And one who’s never lost sight of where he comes from.

Haryasz spoke volumes about his appreciation for Page fans and how they’ve motivated him over the years. Going way back to ninth grade, way before he was a name NBA scouts had heard about.

“Since I was a freshman in high school to my senior year in college, Page has always been behind me,” he said. “And I’ve been real fortunate to have the community and all my friends and my family really support me.

“It means a lot to me.”

The last two games, Haryasz’s top two offensive outings in college, are special reminders of the natural abilities of Chet and Sandy Haryasz’s son.

“I just know that he goes on the floor every single game and plays as hard as he can possibly play,” the elder Haryasz said proudly. “When you play that way, good things are going to happen.”

They certainly did Saturday. Haryasz knocked down jumpers with the smooth touch of a shooting guard. He crashed the boards with reckless abandon and showcased his muscles, too, launching through the air for an impressive putback slam. And, more importantly, he made the plays – at both ends of the floor – he needed to make to help lift his team to victory.

Now, Stanford finds itself at 8-7 overall, 4-3 in the Pac-10, and the trip back to the Bay Area suddenly doesn’t seem as daunting as it did Thursday.

“We’ve just got to take care of business at home next week,” Haryasz said of games against Washington State and Washington. “If we get those two wins, we’ll be sitting real pretty in the Pac-10.”

Expect Matt Haryasz to play an integral role in helping the Cardinal achieve that goal.

Haryasz who is considered a legitimate NBA prospect, entered the week with a Pac-10 best six doubles and led the league No. 1 in rebounds (8.9 per game).

He didn’t accomplish the feat in the Arizona game Thursday, but he did play a season-high 44 minutes (only sitting out for 60 seconds) and added seven rebounds, three blocks and two steals.

So what have the last four years been like for Haryasz, who also received interest from ASU and Arizona?

Stanford’s been a real blessing for me,” the sociology major said. “I’ve gotten to do a lot of things that I’m really fortunate to be able to do. And I’ve grown a lot as a person and as a player.”

You can’t argue with that.

Four years ago, we saw Haryasz dominate against GCR foes and lead his team to the Class 4A title game. Isn’t it funny how quickly the time passes?

Now, he’s months away from finding out if his first post-college employer will be an NBA team.

What’s that like? I asked.

“That’s been a dream of mine,” he said. “I’ve just got to keep working hard and hopefully things will take care of themselves.”

CENTURY STUFF

Haryasz now has 100 career blocks, becoming only the third Stanford player to reach the plateau

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