Eugene Harvey is on his last chance and he knows it. He is in his senior year at Seton Hall, which means only one more season to get it right, to take his team and himself to the next level.
Harvey is guaranteed only 30 more games – although he's hoping for more – and after that, well who knows.
His coach, Bobby Gonzalez, says that this is Harvey playing like he's never witnessed before."Eugene, I know it's really early and we haven't played a game yet, but this is the best I've ever seen him play on a consistent basis," said Gonzalez. "I think he knows he's a senior, he has more urgency, this is it for him.'' As the point guard of a team that is believed by some to be the sleeper in the Big East, an outside contender for the NCAA Tournament, destiny is in his own hands this year.
Over the summer he prepared for this. Harvey put in the time. He worked on his cardio, so he could go longer. He worked on his defense, so he could be more committed this season on the other end. Harvey even reformed his shot, putting in countless hours and putting up even more shots to make sure he had his new form down pat.
Harvey has had the stats before, finishing fifth in the conference in points per game as a freshman, fifth best in assists last season. Now the lightning-quick six-footer is ready to add a winning pedigree to his resume.
But there is an ironic twist to this story, and it involves the second half of Gonzalez's quote.
"I think he's being challenged by Jordan (Theodore)," the coach said of his team captain. "I think he's going to have the best year of his career, he's worked on his shooting, his defense is better. I just think he gets it right now."
What Harvey gets is that to become a winner in his final year, and whether or not he feels like he's being challenged, he will have to share minutes with the sophomore.
At a time when most in his position would be looking for more, the senior is fine with getting less. The reason for that is simple.
"I just wanna win. I just wanna win more than anything," Harvey said. "At the end of the day, like Coach said, nobody gets seen if you don't win. In order for guys to get seen to go to the next level or to do something in basketball you have to win now."
"If coach happens to be like ‘Alright I'm playing Eugene 38 minutes' and we're still going through the same thing or if he's playing Jeremy (Hazell) a whole lot of minutes and we're still losing and guys are sacrificing, it's a waste of time for me."
Not that it's just a charitable act from Harvey. Theodore has earned the playing time. As a freshman last season had his fair share of moments, averaging 5.9 ppg and almost a steal a night. And those that have seen him this fall have been impressed.
Gonzalez values both of his point guards so much that he said, "Jordan and Eugene are becoming not like a starter and a backup but like two starters."
Each has their strengths. Harvey is better offensively, he scored 12.5 ppg and 4.9 apg last season, Theodore a bulldog on defense. Gonzalez compared him to Paul Gause, second all-time in school history in steals and whose defense will have to be replaced this year.
"I think Jordan Theodore a little bit [can replace Gause] because Jordan's on the ball pressure and energy level are similar, the fans love him," said Gonzalez. "He has a similar energy, aura to Paul Gause. He'll dive on the floor, run into tables, take a charge."
Harvey doesn't see the battle for minutes becoming a problem though, saying, "It's not a competition for us." He views himself as the definitive starter; although Theodore believes who finishes the games will be a more fluid development.
"[Gonzalez] hasn't really said anything about it but I'm going with its just how we're playing," said Theodore. "If Eugene is out there, going hard and doing his thing then he's going to be playing. If he's playing bad one night and I'm on then I'll be playing. We'll just play it like that."
Between the wrong set of teammates, a situation like this can cause problems, but not for these two. Theodore and Harvey go way back. Both are New York products whose relationship goes back to AAU ball, when Theodore was on the New York Gauchos and played against Harvey's Panthers.
They would play each other in the same park tournaments and grew to share the same neighborhood friends. Depending which borough they played in, one or the other would stay and hang out afterward.
When Theodore visited Seton Hall, Harvey was his host. Last year they were roommates.
"We're real close," said Harvey. "We knew each other before Seton Hall, this has made us even tighter. His friends are my friends back home."
So if any pair could handle it, it's Harvey and Theodore. Each views their basketball relationship as symbiotic.
Theodore credits Harvey with mentoring him when he got to South Orange. Harvey believes that as both players grow, they learn from each other.
And on the court, well that's where they work best in tandem.
"It's a big advantage because he comes in he's doing great things. I come in and I'm doing great things," Theodore said. "And on the defensive end we tire their point guards down because he's pressuring them and I'm pressuring them. So everybody can't do that. A lot of teams in the country don't have that."
So if two really is better than one, Harvey might be the happiest of them all by how it plays out. He only has one year left and he knows there is only way to make sure it plays out right.
To get more – more wins, more notice – he's going to have to take less.
"I believe winning means a lot and I believe guys are willing to sacrifice for us to win," Harvey said.