Harthun's time has come
Time is what Michael Harthun needed — and still needs — and that's exactly what he's been granted this season for the Portland State men's basketball team.
After two lost seasons on the Washington State bench and another vacated due to NCAA transfer rules, Harthun is finally back to doing what he loves and beginning to thrive in the Vikings' system under head coach Tyler Geving.
The 2008 South Medford High graduate poured in 18 points during last Thursday's 86-75 win at North Colorado — PSU's first road win this season — and has raised his average to 9.5 points and 2.1 rebounds in a new role as the shooting guard for the Vikings (8-9, 2-3 Big Sky).
"We're really pleased with what Mike's been doing so far," says Geving. "I think he obviously had a really good game (Thursday) and has been playing better of late and shooting the ball better of late. I think he's going to have a great second half of the season."
Any one of those compliments would be enough for Harthun, whose had few such hints thrown his way since he finished as South Medford's second-leading scorer to Kyle Singler.
Playing his first season at WSU under defensive-minded head coach Tony Bennett and then the next under Ken Bone in his first season with the Cougars, Harthun compliments were thrown around like manhole covers. With Geving, Harthun appears to finally have someone willing to take the good with the bad.
"It's just been great," the 6-foot-3 guard says of transferring to PSU. "Coach Geving has given me the opportunity and been understanding that I may have a game here or there where I don't play as well and he's letting me play through it as a guy that's trying to find his confidence."
Swagger was never a problem for Harthun in his high school days, but he has admitted that most of that went away as he battled health and playing time issues at Washington State. When he did see the court for the Cougars, Harthun says he wasn't the player he needed to be and regrets that as much as anything because he truly enjoyed his time in Pullman, Wash., and the teammates and coaches there.
"I definitely didn't want to leave Washington State but I feel like I made a good decision coming to Portland State," says Harthun. "I felt I needed to make a move to better my situation. Coach Geving is a real player's coach and easy to talk to and his up-and-down transition system kind of plays into my hands as a player."
Geving was happy to get someone of Harthun's abilities, even knowing that it might take a little time before he was finally back in full form.
"We've always liked shooters and scorers, that's kind of how we've built our program a little bit," says the third-year coach, who was an assistant to Bone at PSU, then took over when Bone went to WSU. "I saw Mike a lot in high school and really liked his game coming out of high school. I thought this would be a great level for him to have success and play a lot, and coach Bone really liked him as a kid and that went a long ways with us. I think this is just the right level for him to have a lot of success and play a lot each night for us."
Harthun has started 16 of PSU's 17 games. Interestingly enough, it was the one game he came off the bench in which he achieved his career high of 22 points, against Cal State Bakersfield.
"He's our best shooter and a pure shooter so he's got to be a 3-point threat for us," says Geving. "Teams have to guard him and that opens up the inside game for us and opens opportunities for other guys to drive because guys stay attached to him because he could hit four or five 3s on you if you leave him."
Harthun is converting 47 percent of his shots from the field (59-for-125) and 43 percent from 3-point range (26-for-60) heading into Monday's home contest against Idaho State.
Still, both player and coach believe there are better things on the horizon for the former Panther.
"I knew it was going to take a little while but I also knew what he's capable of doing and I think he's starting to show a little bit more of that," says Geving. "The great thing about him is whatever we've asked him to do, he's tried to do it."
Playing almost 29 minutes per game has been the main tonic for Harthun, who needed the time to shake his own cobwebs after nearly three years removed from prime competition and also needed the time to jell with his new teammates. Harthun says he gained maturity and time to work on his game last year when he was at Portland State but ineligible to do anything more than practice with the team.
"It has taken some time to mesh but now I'm starting to get more comfortable with them and I think the extra minutes have helped me out a lot," he says. "Coach Geving has given me a lot more freedom. At Washington State, it was tough because I was in and out of the game and I put high expectations on myself and put a lot of pressure on myself to make a lot of shots. As a result of that, I didn't perform as I can and didn't play with as much confidence as I should have."
Even now, thrilled as he is to be back on the court in competition, Harthun says he's still working to regain the same aggressive approach that helped lead South Medford to the state championship in 2007 and a runner-up showing in 2006.
"The scoring mentality and being aggressive is starting to come back slowly, but definitely I think I still need to continue to be more aggressive and do it at the right time," says Harthun.
Geving is certainly in line with Harthun being more aggressive on the offensive end, knowing that increased output can only serve to make the Vikings a more diverse and difficult team as they embark on their final 12 games of the regular season before the Big Sky Conference Championships.
"I've kept saying all along that this team will be better the second half of the year and I think we've shown that in our play," says Geving. "I think we've got a good opportunity. We need to make a run with the games we have left and I think we're primed to do it."
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, email@example.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry