I blame Miles Simon.
Doing color commentary for Stanford’s game against Fresno State earlier this season, the former Arizona guard called Josh Huestis one of the most athletic players in the conference, or something to that effect. The innocuous comment has stuck with me, primarily because Huestis is among the least ballyhooed of Stanford’s much-hyped sophomore class and the Montana native didn’t exactly put up the numbers as a freshman that would lead one to believe he’s a freakishly gifted athlete.
Fair or unfair, I can’t help but expect great things from Huestis whenever he’s on the floor now, and I’m usually left disappointed, despite the fact that he's second on the team in rebounding and is shooting 49% from the field. Like I said, I blame Miles Simon.
Which brings me to Stanford’s dramatic 60-59 win over UCLA in last night’s Pac-12 opener. Huestis’ final line doesn’t jump out at you -- 4 points, 3 rebounds -- but by now you've probably seen his emphatic, game-saving block of Lazeric Jones' shot with the Cardinal clinging to a one-point lead in the final seconds. Andrew Zimmermann’s swat to deny what looked like an easy layup made No. 6 on SportsCenter’s top plays, but Huestis’ rejection was the play of the night -- and arguably the play of the season -- for the Cardinal.
"That's a memorable one," Huestis said after the game. "Having that power to know that you can stop someone from taking the game-winning shot is a great feeling."
Jones, a senior, led the Bruins with a game-high 26 points and outplayed his counterpart, Stanford freshman Chasson Randle, who finished with 10 points despite shooting only 3-for-12 from the field. Aaron Bright led the Cardinal with 16 points and Stanford overcame a poor shooting night (35%) by outrebounding the Bruins 38-34 and shooting 13-for-16 from the free throw line. Stop the presses!
Stanford's strong effort on the glass and uncharacteristically good free throw shooting likely would've been for naught, though, if Huestis doesn't reject Jones' final shot.
"I thought the last possession Josh Huestis came up as big as a young man could come up in that situation," head coach Johnny Dawkins said.
Maybe Miles Simon was on to something. In the meantime, I'll stop waiting for Huestis to bust this out and appreciate the other parts of his game.
Stanford hosts USC on Saturday.