Do-it-all Hobson has Lobos thinking big
SAN JOSE, Calif. – New Mexico coach Steve Alford caught a break in the opening round when Anthony Johnson, Montana’s leading scorer, essentially rendered himself a non-factor by missing his first 11 shots.
This tournament breeds its share of last-second heroes, but having to establish, on the fly, a go-to guy for an entire game is another matter entirely.
“I think it’s disruptive to a team when your leading scorer goes 1-for-12,” Alford said after the Lobos’ 62-57 win over the Grizzlies set up a second-round matchup with Washington in the East Regional. “Then that makes other people have to increase their role, and increasing roles in this month becomes very difficult.”
Alford knows something about indispensable players. Fortunes break both ways in this fickle event, and the Lobos nearly had a big problem of their own Thursday when junior swingman Darington Hobson crashed to the floor in the first half and injured his wrist.
“I thought I wasn’t going to be able to finish the game,” said Hobson, who before the tournament boldly predicted the Lobos were destined for the regional final. “It hurt every time I dribbled or tried to shoot or make a pass.”
Dribbling. Shooting. Passing. Yup, that’s Harrington’s game. In addition to leading New Mexico in scoring (16 points per game) and assists (4.6 per game), he also paces the team in rebounds, grabbing 9.3 per game.
“He does everything for us,” senior forward Roman Martinez said.
Hobson played through the pain Thursday but was limited, at least by his standards. He still made quite an imprint on the opening-round victory, finishing with 11 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and two steals. A Friday X-ray was negative, and Hobson took part in a light practice Friday afternoon. He is expected to play Saturday.
“With our bench being all freshman and sophomores, that’s big for us,” Alford said. “He’s such a big piece of what we’ve done all year long.
“His presence on the floor demands attention, and that makes everybody else better, so we’re glad the X-rays came back and everything’s fine.”
After spending two years at the College of Eastern Utah, Hobson has established himself as one of the most versatile players in the nation in his first season at New Mexico. He and Ohio State’s Evan Turner are the only two Division I players to average 15 points, nine rebounds and four assists this season.
Hobson will finish the season as the only player in school history to lead the Lobos in points, rebounds and assists in the same season.
“I’m versatile,” Hobson said. “I try to make plays for my teammates, make plays on the defensive end, do things that don’t show up on the stat sheet, so if I’m not scoring it doesn’t affect the way I’m capable of impacting the game.”
It was one of those plays on defense during a February game against BYU that made an impression on Washington coach Lorenzo Romar, who tried unsuccessfully to recruit Hobson when the lefty was a top-150 prep prospect at Decatur (Ill.) Christian.
Hobson had his typical line against BYU – 20 points, 14 rebounds, four assists – but the 83-81 victory wasn’t sealed until Hobson rejected BYU power forward Noah Hartsock at the rim with one second remaining.
“He can do whatever is needed, whatever is required, to impact that game, to impact winning,” Romar said. “When you have a guy like that, I’d say it’s a pretty substantial contribution by that guy.
“It’s no fluke that they’ve won 30 games. They don’t have a whole lot of holes.”
Hobson entered the tournament shooting 50 percent from the floor, 42 percent on 3-pointers and 76 percent from the line over his past 11 games. His 13 double-doubles this season were the most since Danny Granger had the same number in 2004-05, and that was before the line Hobson posted against Montana.
Before Thursday’s game, Grizzlies coach Wayne Tinkle had called Hobson a “matchup nightmare.” Romar agrees. Guarding Hobson will be a team effort.
“He’s the type of wing player, like a Penny Hardaway, who is just versatile,” Romar said. “Guys that can put the ball on the floor, see the floor, make plays for himself and make plays for others.”
Does that vision carry over to his skill as a prognosticator? Hobson still believes the Lobos are destined for Syracuse, N.Y., and the regional final, and he’ll do everything in his considerable power to get them there.
“It’s tournament time,” Hobson said. “[The wrist] is not going to affect me, and I’ll be ready to go.”