VILLANOVA, Pa. -- Nobody had heard of Josh Hart.
As strange as that seems now, two years ago, Hart was a reserve sophomore forward on a Villanova team that was 29-2, ranked No. 4 in the country and went into the Big East Tournament on a 12-game winning streak.
Hart was averaging 9.7 points and 4.4 rebounds per game on a team led by Darrun Hilliard, Ryan Arcidiacono, Daniel Ochefu, Dylan Ennis and JayVaughn Pinkston.
By the time the Big East tourney was over?
Oh, everybody knew who Hart was.
Hart had 53 points, six rebounds, six assists and five steals in tournament wins over Marquette, Providence and Xavier. He made 21 of 29 shots in the three tournament games -- 72 percent -- and was 9 for 14 from 3-point range.
Hart -- who was named Big East Player of the Year Wednesday -- became the first reserve in tournament history named MVP, and he hasn’t slowed down since.
He averaged 15.5 points and 6.8 rebounds last year and emerged as a National Player of the Year candidate this year with 18.7 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.5 steals per game.
And it all started at the Garden two years ago this week.
"I remember there was very little pressure on him because we had Darrun Hilliard and JayVaughn and Arch and Daniel, and he could just come in and let it fly, and he wasn’t getting the best player guarding him," Villanova coach Jay Wright recalled.
"And it was an advantage for us, it really was, because he was as good as a starter and he played as well as any starter in that (tournament) and deserved the MVP.
"So that’s different for him now. He goes up there and everybody knows who he is and gets double teams, and I think there’s a lot more attention paid to him on the court as there was that sophomore year."
Villanova opens play in the 2017 Big East Tournament at noon Thursday at Madison Square Garden against the St. John’s-Georgetown winner.
In seven career games in the Big East tourney, Hart has averaged 17.9 points and 5.0 rebounds and shot 62 percent from the field.
It’s expected now. In 2015, it wasn’t.
"I had great guys on the team," Hart said. "We had Darrun Hilliard, the second half of that year he was just on a tear, then you had Ryan (Arcidiacono), who was a junior but he was Ryan. You had J.P. (Pinkston).
"They had all these guys they had to takeaway so I was kind of where Mikal (Bridges) or Donte (DiVincenzo) is now, and you find yourself open a lot more than you do junior or senior year.
"Cutting down the nets was amazing but we’ve got to remember what got us there and we’ve got to do the same things."
Wright said what he remembers most from Hart’s performance at the Garden in 2015 isn’t his performance on the court, but his performance after the Wildcats won the tournament.
"What really clicked was his interiew after the game on the court after winning the MVP and how humble he was and how much he talked about his teammates and his family," Wright said.
"We really knew we had something special. We just watched him play and now you hear that as his response? You’re just thinking, 'This kid’s special.'"