Zach Harvey did not have the luxury of sneaking up on anyone like most freshmen.
Hayden’s 6-foot-4 combo guard entered the season as one of the most-hyped freshmen ever in Topeka receiving national attention from scouts and college coaches for his standout summer before playing in a high school game.
“People already knew who I was walking in and I was not going to be a person they would just let do my own thing,” Harvey said. “They were going to put the pressure on me and I was going to have to bring it to make sure I did what I needed to do.”
Although Harvey anticipated more success, it was still a very productive freshman year averaging 12.0 points a game, which is the highest average by a freshman in Topeka in recent memory.
“I would say it was good for my first year experiencing high school basketball,” Harvey said. “I was kind of disappointed obviously with getting injured and a lot of my goals I had set for myself were not achieved, which was disappointing, and also the goals that I wanted my team to achieve in the postseason. I would say it was alright.”
It had been nine years since a freshman in Topeka averaged in double figures when Highland Park’s Rico Richardson averaged 10.6 on the Scots’ undefeated 25-0 state championship team in 2006-07.
Harvey helped Hayden to a 12-10 season. He was one of three underclassmen along with sophomore Jett Canfield (14.7) and sophomore DeShawn Hanika (11.0) to lead the team in scoring. Harvey also averaged 2.7 rebounds and 1.5 assists a game.
“I was expecting to do more for my team in terms of points and assists,” Harvey said. “And just overall get more wins. I wasn’t expecting to lose as many games as we did, but I think we’ll be better next year for sure.”
Harvey scored in double figures in each of his first five games before breaking his thumb a few minutes into the sixth game causing him to miss the next nine games.
“Before I was hurt the season was pretty rough,” Harvey said. “We lost the first game by 25 so that wasn’t a good way to start the season. We beat Holton, which really wasn’t a game and then we lost to St. James and the next two games and then I got hurt so the beginning of the season wasn’t very good. Then the time that was out the team kind of came together so when I came back I felt we were more of a team and played a lot better.”
Harvey returned and finished strong down the stretch scoring 37 points in Hayden’s two postseason games.
“The first couple games and practice I came back were rough because I was still favoring my thumb and would stay out of contact, but once I got bumped a couple of times I was realizing that I was alright and just pushed through it. I got over it and it wasn’t too much of a setback.”
Harvey scored 21 points with three rebounds and two assists in Hayden’s final game falling 75-59 in the sub-state championship to Rock Creek, which went on to take third place in Class 4A-II.
“We got the game started off to a pretty rough start and they had that one dude who had 17 on us in the first quarter,” Harvey said. “I don’t know why we couldn’t guard him. I feel like we thought it was going to be an easy game and we just thought we were going to walk in there and just beat them easily. I don’t think everyone on the team showed up to play like we should have. We just didn’t play as a hard.”
Despite the injury Harvey continued to develop as a player throughout the season.
“I would say I improved on defense greatly,” Harvey said. “Playing AAU and middle school ball wasn’t that helpful. The AAU seasons are pretty much just straight up man-to-man and a whole bunch of athletic people going at it. But in high school they break down the fundamentals of defense and I learned a lot about how to play a shell defense and I’ve gotten good at that. And I also feel I’ve gotten quicker from practicing every day and improving in other athletic aspects.”
He is looking to continue to improve his game in the offseason participating in the Darting Basketball Academy and will be playing with KC Run GMC with the first tournament on April 15-17 in New York.