All season long, Bucknell’s Chris Hass has been a quiet storm — a hurricane of 3-pointers, jump shots and drives to the hoop. He reached land for the latest time Saturday afternoon in Boston, touching down at the Agganis Arena and promptly wreaked havoc, torching the Terriers for 28 points to help Bucknell stay atop the Patriot League standings with a 92-72 win.
The Bison’s fearless leader has been a steady contributor all season long and had a career-high 32 points against Villanova earlier in the season, but his play against BU during his team’s big road win was the difference maker and encapsulates the impact he makes on the floor for Dave Paulsen’s team.
Through the first half, Hass’ stat line was already shaping up nicely: 10 points, 4-for-6 shooting from the field, 2-for-2 from 3-point range, and four rebounds. In the first stanza, after being down by as much as 13, BU was able to come back and make it a competitive ball game going into the break, with Bucknell in the lead 42-40.
“Before, I hit like four or five, so I knew I was feeling alright before that and I just kind of shot it like I shot every other shot,” said Hass. “I didn’t think too much about it.”
In the second half, Hurricane Chris struck. Led by Hass, the Bison came out of the locker room looking to be aggressive, and immediately got on the board to start rebuilding their lead. Throughout the half, Bucknell would build a small lead but BU would battle right back and close in. However, each time BU would try and make the effort to tie or take the lead, Hass would deny them, hitting big shot after big shot.
The final and most impressive blow came with 8:46 left and Hass, while in mid-air, juggled the ball for a second and double-clutched a three-pointer to put the Bison up 73-63. At that point Hass was 5-for-5, and everyone at Agganis Arena knew January 24, 2015 would be his day.
Hass’ progression to the player he has become began years ago when he first began to play basketball, but in the last few months, he has experienced perhaps the most rapid growth of his career.
“It’s definitely different than last year,” said the 6-foot-5 junior. “I was under Cameron Ayers’ wings, and just filling my role.”
Bucknell began the 2014-15 season with a lot of inexperienced players taking the court, meaning players like Hass and senior forward Cory Starkey, who had primarily been role players, had to take over as leaders.
It was during the team’s summer trip to Europe last May where Hass felt like he began to flourish, and see that he has what it takes to lead his team in the future.
“We went over to Europe and we played well as a team, I played well personally and it was like hey, this is the standard,” said Hass. “That was good for my confidence, because I knew I had to take the role, but I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to fit it.”
Throughout the process of becoming one of the team’s leaders, Hass has not been alone. Paulsen, an energetic head coach, has been right behind him, pushing him since day one back in 2012.
“Coach has been always been on me, of course this year is a bit different,” said Hass, adding, “making that transition was tough because coach is definitely a guy that will get on me but I think I was ready for it.”
Following the trip, as a way to motivate Hass and help him with his ever-increasing role, Paulsen sent his star players some light summer reading.
“Coach sent me an article about how Greg Popovich treats Tim Duncan, and how he’s always on his butt, because coach is always on my butt, but we have a good relationship,” said Hass.
As a way to try and improve over the summer, Hass went back to his hometown of Pellston, Michigan and went right to work.
“I went home, kind of got my mind right. Being here is really stressful, it’s a grind, and it’s more like your job,” said Hass. “I tried to find workouts that were fun, and make it more fun. I also had to get ready to be the number one guy on the scouting reports because that’s definitely tough, so I had to get in better shape. I’m in better shape than I was last year.”
With less than two months remaining in the season, it appears that all of that work Hass put in during the summer is paying off. Hass’ average of 30.8 minutes per game is more than four minutes per game more from last year, and his scoring average has jumped from 11.1 points per game last year to 16.3 this season.
Hass’ season actually got off to a bumpy start when he and the Bison took on Marist and he shot just 2-for-10 from the field, scoring a total of five points and grabbing four rebounds. However, the next two games would be the Hass everyone has become accustomed to seeing. On the road against then-No. 24 Michigan, Hass scored 21 points, and grabbed four rebounds in 32 minutes of court time.
The next game was even more impressive as Hass put up 32 points on a 9-for-12 night from the floor against then-No. 12 (now No. 4) Villanova in a close 72-65 loss.
“We played four major schools and just having that 32-point game was big for my confidence,” said Hass. “I was coming off a 21-point game at Michigan so I had a bit of confidence, but that really showed me that I could play with anyone.”