Unsung Player Day: Steve Novak

4 04 2008

When Tracy McGrady says that you’re “the best shooter [he’s] ever seen,” shouldn’t you be getting at least a little bit of press? Although he owns one of the sweetest strokes in the league, you won’t hear Steve Novak being bombarded with interview requests.

As soon as Don over at With Malice… told me that he was declaring April 5th as an Unsung Player Day, the 6’10” forward out of Marquette came to mind. I mean Bruce Pearl gropes Erin Andrews and he continues to get press. Where’s the love for a nice guy like Stevie Novak?

Novak had an incredible start to his collegiate career. He helped Dwyane Wade and Travis Diener bring Marquette to its first Final Four since Al McGuire. Along the way, Novak earned Conference USA All-Freshman Team and became the Conference’s Sixth Man of the Year. After that fast start, Novak essentially underwhelmed during his sophomore and junior seasons.

But come his senior year, he literally played his way into the NBA. Novak kick-started Marquette’s first season in the Big East, guiding the program to the best performance out of all the former C-USA teams. He averaged 17.5 points, 5.9 rebounds while shooting 46.7% from 3-point range and 47.7% overall. It was good enough to be an unanimous All-Big East First-Team selection. He shared unanimous selection honors with Randy Foye, Allan Ray and Rudy Gay. Not bad company, if you ask me.

The Houston Rockets drafted the long-range marksman with the 32nd pick overall. Things weren’t stellar for the man during his rookie season. He averaged 1.5 points and 0.7 rebounds in 35 games with a single start. The Rockets sent him down to the D-League a couple times where he played for the Rio Grand Valley Vipers.

Novak’s second professional season has treated him a bit better. He’s seen increased playing time, especially since Yao Ming went down with an injury. He’s reached double-figures twice this season. The highlight, so far, was when he hit a buzzer-beating, game-winner against Sacramento.

Like an old man easing into a warm bath, Novak is getting a better awareness of how to play the game. His value, at this point, comes mainly because he stretches out the floor. The Rockets’ offense is predicated on lots of half-court sets with their big men setting up the offense at the elbow or high post. Novak and his deadly three-point shot catches just enough attention when he fades into the corner.

In a game where one play separates winning and losing, every advantage counts. So the next time you watch Tracy McGrady and the Rockets, keep an eye out for #20. You may be pleasantly surprised by the young Steve Novak.