Sharpshooting guard Nick Faust spent most of his first season at City knocking down 3-pointers to help the No. 1 Knights capture their second straight state championship last spring.
But it was a game in March in which Faust got knocked down, and then got back up, that left the biggest impression on his coach, Mike Daniel, and teammates.
Faust was fouled hard — crashing underneath the basket — in the fourth quarter of a fiercely contested regional title game against rival Edmondson.
City's home crowd was in an uproar. Players on both sides were heated. And the City coaching staff was concerned for his well-being.
And Faust? He calmly collected himself and went back to the task at hand.
"I remember when he got off the floor, I asked him, 'Can you go?'" Daniel said. "He had a little limp with him, but he said, 'Yeah, I can go.' I went back to the bench and looked at the coaches and said, 'He's finally got it.' From that point on, he just showed how much he was maturing and I knew then that it was going to be hard to keep us from winning a state championship."
In the Knights' 59-58 win over the Red Storm that day, Faust contributed 12 points and, at the buzzer, deflected Edmondson's potential game-winning basket. He went on to lead City in scoring in both state tournament games, finishing with 21 in a semifinal win over Easton and 19 in the Knights' 56-45 win over Gwynn Park in the Class 2A final.
"The memories of that day are great," said Faust, who averaged 20 points and six rebounds last season to earn second-team All-Metro honors. "I felt like everything we worked on the whole season paid off. It was a great feeling."
When he was asked what the best day of the past year has been for him, that one might be the obvious choice. But the 6-foot-5 Faust, City's co-captain and a senior who transferred from John Carroll in 2009, has had a lot to pick from.
There were a couple of days in July when he accumulated 103 points in three games during the Rose City Showcase — a Nike AAU tournament in Portland, Ore. Then came the night in mid-October when he heard Maryland students chanting, "We want Faust! We want Faust!" during Maryland Madness at Comcast Center. Signing his national letter of intent to Maryland — choosing to play for the home-state school over a handful of DivisionI programs — was way up there a couple of weeks back.
"Everything that has gone on has been a journey — a great journey and an incredible experience," he said. "I've just been working hard, putting a lot of time into my game and everything just started to pay off."
People everywhere have taken notice. Faust's confident and precise outside shooting is often what gets noticed first, but he has developed a complete game around it.
"It's easy to talk about his perimeter shooting because that's what he hangs his hat on," said ESPN.com senior basketball recruiting analyst Dave Telep. "But if you really watch him, I think he got much better as a passer and he's explosive, so once in a while he'll go off the bounce and cram one on you. He's just one of those guys that his confidence started taking off and with every week since spring to summer, he just kept improving."
At this time last year, Faust, who has a 3.4 grade-point average, was new to the City team and trying to fit in. This year, he will be the centerpiece of the area's No. 1-ranked team, which is primed to win a third straight state crown.
"He has a great amount of confidence and it helps us out a lot. When he gets it going, he doesn't miss, so we just keep giving him the ball," senior guard Eric Greer said. "And he's always out there working hard, and it makes us all work hard."
Faust was 5-9 when he first walked onto the court as a freshman at John Carroll but has steadily grown, going from 6-2 to 6-5 in his time at City. His game has grown as well. Daniel is impressed with his shooting guard's patience — letting the game come to him instead of forcing himself on it — along with his ability to make adjustments.
"Sometimes good players don't want to adjust," Daniel said. "They just want to do what they've been doing. But Nick made some adjustments. We want to defend and he made a commitment to playing good defense. He's also good at getting his teammates involved. We've learned a lot about Nick, and it's been all good."
Faust is focused on building on the past year's breakthrough. He's looking forward to the challenge of stepping up as the team leader in his final high school season and is confident the Knights have the goods to capture another championship.
From there, he's ready to further elevate his game at Maryland, which Telep believes is an ideal fit. "If you look at this from an evaluation standpoint, he is willing to play for a coach [ Gary Williams] that maxes out the potential of everybody on his roster and I think Nick has the desire to get there," Telep said.
Faust said he has always wanted to have his own business. But now, a chance to play in the NBA is a realistic option that might put his original career ambition on hold.
"It's just going to take more hard work. Getting into the gym and getting up shots. And don't let anything get to your head," Faust said.