By Anthony Bosco
Don’t sell the National Invitation Tournament short, at least not around Marcus Hatten. The senior out of Baltimore by way of Tallahassee Community College claimed his first-ever championship on any level last Thursday when his St. John’s Red Storm defeated the Georgetown Hoyas.
And Hatten did it before a crowd of his fellow Baltimore natives, who made the trek to the Big Apple just for the game. One of those was his father Howard, whom Hatten did not expect to show.
“I had no idea that this guy was going to be here,” said Hatten, his arm draped over his father’s shoulder in the SJU locker room. “What better way to end my career than like that? It just means everything [to have my father here]. It’s just the best feeling in the world right now.”
After the celebration ended, however, St. John’s fans had to come to the realization that the program’s savior over the past two seasons would not be back for a third. Hatten, in his final year of eligibility, is expected to be a first-round pick in the upcoming NBA Draft.
While at St. John’s, the Red Storm compiled a record of 41-25, including an NCAA Tournament appearance last season and an NIT championship this year. Hatten finished his career with 1,400 points, putting him at 16th all-time at St. John’s in just two seasons. At that pace Hatten would have easily eclipsed Chris Mullin’s all-time scoring record at the school of 2,440 points.
Hatten also broke the school’s all-time scoring average record with just more than 21.2 points per game, surpassing the previous record of 21.1 held by Tony Jackson. He also became the all-time scoring average leader in Big East Conference play, averaging more than 23 points per game, surpassing the mark held by Allen Iverson.
His importance to the program was certainly not lost on head coach Mike Jarvis, who spoke about his star player after SJU won the NIT Thursday.
“It’s bad and it’s good,” said Jarvis of Hatten’s final game. “I mean, it’s bad because he’s such a special player, but it’s good because the last memory I will ever have of him is up on the ladder cutting down the net with that big smile on his face.
“That, to me, is the way you’d like to end with all kids,” the coach added. “Marcus will be with us forever.”
Freshman point guard Elijah Ingram, a McDonald’s High School All-American out of St. Patrick's (N.J.), struggled earlier this season before finding his feet and becoming a major contributor down the stretch, something he said he owes a lot to Hatten.
“He meant a lot,” Ingram said. “I think I probably wouldn’t have got through it if it wasn’t for him. I mean, he picked me up when I was down. He was like a sixth man for me on the court.”
A two-time First Team All-Big East selection, Hatten finished his collegiate career with a flourish. His 29 points and memorable free throw with no time left in regulation carried SJU to a win over the Duke Blue Devils on March 2, a win that turned a .500 season into one for the history books.
He followed that performance with a career-high 44 points against Rutgers and 27 against Miami en route to being named Big East Player of the Week honors.
In the NIT, Hatten averaged 20.6 points per game over five games, including a high of 30 against Virginia and 24 against Texas Tech.
Hatten envisioned the outcome of Thursday’s game that afternoon while still at the Mariott Marquis with the team.
“When we were in the hotel and I went to the game, I started having flashes of cutting down the net and enjoying our championship game and having everyone from Baltimore here with me now,” Hatten said. “We had a number of tests that came to this team that we could have said, ‘Oh, well, forget it.’ But these guys stood strong. Even though we were in the NIT, we were in it to win it. Everybody believed in each other. We just took it one game at a time and we came away with the NIT championship.”
A great chapter in the history of St. John’s University basketball came to an end last week with an NIT championship. And that chapter is titled: Marcus Hatten.
Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300. Ext. 130.