BY CHRIS HOOKER, SPORTS EDITOR
That’s how head men’s basketball coach Frank Marcinek describes the leadership of his star freshman guard Brandon Hedley.
“He doesn’t play like a freshman,” Marcinek said. “Freshmen, knock on wood, are typically inconsistent. Some nights, they are really good. Other nights, they’re freshmen. He has not been inconsistent. He’s been our most consistent player.”
Hedley is playing like he didn’t get the typical freshman memo. Averaging a team-high 13.5 points a game, including a 40.4 percent from behind the arc, has put him atop the list of Susquehanna’s scoring options.
“He’s led us in scoring probably 80 percent of the games he’s played in,” Marcinek said.
This includes each of the last four games, where he’s averaged 19.8 points per game over that stretch.
But it’s not just scoring that Hedley brings to the floor.
“He has a pretty complete game,” Marcinek said. “A lot of the time, freshmen really need to develop in certain areas. [Against Moravian], he guarded, for a portion of the game, Moravian’s leading scorer. He came in averaging 16 a game, and we held him to eight. Brandon was a big part of that. He was a very good assist-to-turnover ratio. He plays with some swagger, and he’s becoming one of our on-floor leaders, which is also something that is a little bit different for a freshman. I look forward to coaching him the next four years.”
Hedley, too, is looking forward to the next four years.
“[Freshman year] has been pretty good,” Hedley said. “It started off so-so because I didn’t get to play in the first couple of games, but since I’ve been in, things have been going pretty good. I’ve been getting more confidence and my team has been getting more confidence in me. I’m just trying to be a leader and get us to get some wins.”
The sky is the limit for him, and Marcinek thinks his game can only improve from here.
“It’s the mental side, the execution side [where we will see improvements],” he said. “Maybe just keeping his poise at times, knowing how to get his teammates more involved. It’s all the stuff that will come with maturity.”
He added: “Right now, his scoring is coming from making three-point shots and he’s very good at it. It’s like the pitcher that is throwing the 97-mile-per-hour fastball. Can he throw the change-up? Brandon’s change-up needs to be getting in the defense, getting to the free-throw line, making some pull-ups, getting to the rim.”
Hedley also admitted that there is still more to learn and improve upon.
“I came in looking up to the upperclassmen,” Hedley said. “I’ve got to be a good communicator and help my team out as best as possible.”
Hedley cited junior point guard Mike Perillo as a role model for learning the Crusader way.
“He’s been helping me out, considering he’s been the point guard the last few years, and he’s an upperclassman. I’ve been talking to him a lot,” said Hedley.
“I’m very proud of how Brandon has been playing this year and how he is a very mature and smart player as a freshman,” Perillo said. “I really enjoy playing with him. He’s a great teammate.”
Coming in as a young gun isn’t always easy in college basketball, especially with veterans around you, and earning that respect of his teammates is always an obstacle for an up-and-coming player.
“He’s adapted very well,” Marcinek said. “I think respect on the court is earned and if you do it day after day after day in practice, your teammates will respect and trust you. That’s all Brandon has done. It’s nice that he has looked at Mike as a role model because Mike is a fabulous teammate. Guys that are good for a team care about the team and not just themselves. I would say that is true for both Mike and Brandon. They are team-first guys.”
Hedley states that coming to Susquehanna required a bit of a learning curve from his high school days, but he feels like he is mastering the ropes more and more each day.
“I learned that they are different paces,” Hedley said. “I knew I’d get used to it. I knew there would be some competition, but by a couple of games, I’d be ready to play and show everybody in the conference what I can do.”
“Last night, I walked into the gym at 6 p.m. before our 7:30 game, and Brandon is the only guy in there,” Marcinek said. “It’s that kind of stuff. He’s doing things the right way.”