Tavaras Hardy’s head-coaching debut with the Loyola Maryland men’s basketball program began with the knowledge that the offense would lack last year’s leading scorer in guard Andre Walker and another double-digit producer in forward Cam Gregory.
That void, however, was quickly filled by junior guard Andrew Kostecka III, who scored 17 points in a season-opening loss to St. John’s on Nov. 6. Since then, he has scored 10 or more points in 18 of the Greyhounds’ 20 games.
“I’m just trying to become more confident offensively,” he said Thursday. “I know we had a bunch of scorers graduate last season and that I’ve had to step up. So I’m just trying to help the team out as much as I can.”
The 6-foot-4, 184-pound Kostecka has emerged as one of the top players in the Patriot League. He leads the conference in scoring (20.7 points per game) and total steals (43) and ranks fifth in free-throw percentage (83.9) and 15th in rebounds (5.1 per game). He has finished eight games with at least 26 points, which is tied for the sixth-highest total among Division I players.
Kostecka, 21, is one of only four players nationally to average 20 points and two steals per game. Duke forward Zion Williamson, Louisiana Monroe guard Daishon Smith and St. John’s point guard Shamorie Ponds are the other three, and Hardy said Kostecka is just beginning to discover the depths of his talent.
“I don’t think he’s hit his potential,” said Hardy, who was an assistant coach at Northwestern, Georgetown and Georgia Tech before succeeding G.G. Smith on March 28. “He’s still learning, and he’s still growing offensively and defensively. The way we play, we want guys to be able to do anything, and there are some things he’s never been asked to do. It’s a little new for him, making plays with the ball in his hands off ball screens and things like that. That’s something we’re going to continue to work with him, but I think the sky’s the limit for him.”
Growing up in Germantown, Kostecka rabidly followed Maryland basketball and especially admired point guard Greivis Vasquez, who was selected in the first round of the 2010 NBA draft and played for six franchises. But Vasquez’s appeal to Kostecka was not limited to his scoring ability.
“I just remember how hard he played and the passion he had for the game, and that’s something I try to bring to the table as well,” Kostecka said, adding that one of his childhood thrills was at 14, when he got Vasquez to sign a shirt after a game in the parking lot. “I just like shaping myself after guys who love the game of basketball as much as I do.”
In his sophomore and senior years, Kostecka helped the Clarksburg High School team advance to its first and second Class 4A West regional finals before falling to Whitman both times. Former Clarksburg coach GJ Kissal, who now coaches at Good Counsel in Olney, said Kostecka would’ve ended his career as the Coyotes’ all-time leading scorer if a quad contusion had not forced him to miss more than half of his junior season.
“Andrew has such a great feel for the game, just a great sense of the game,” Kissal said. “He was very mature in terms of what he saw on the floor. With some players, as a coach, you have to get them to see what you see and you have to use film, you’ve got to talk to them, and you’ve got to show them. With Andrew, a lot of it was just saying what you saw, and 99 percent of the time, he saw the same thing. His understanding and his vision of things was right in line with the coaching staff’s.”
Genetics might also play a role. Kostecka’s paternal grandfather, Andrew Kostecka Sr., was a former forward at Georgetown who was inducted into the university’s Hall of Fame and was drafted in 1948 by the Indianapolis Jets of the Basketball Association of America, which eventually merged with the National Basketball League to become the NBA.
“I would say that he’s the reason I still play today,” said Kostecka, who was 8 when his grandfather died at 85 in 2007. “Obviously, I do it for myself, but just having someone to look up to, he was the perfect person for me. He played hard, and I knew he was great at everything that he did. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time with him, but the time that I did have, I cherish dearly.”
In his first two seasons at Loyola, Kostecka started 35 of 55 games he played and punctuated his sophomore campaign by being named to the Patriot League’s All-Defensive team with 54 steals and 29 blocks. Junior guard Chuck Champion, who shares a suite with Kostecka and junior forward Kavaughn Scott, said Kostecka has added offense to his forte on defense.
“It’s definitely changed, but he’s still a dog on defense,” Champion said. “He helps us out defensively a whole lot, blocks a lot of shots. His scoring is a plus because he’s always going to be a great defender.”
Kostecka’s 49 assists are already a career high, and he said he has prioritized getting his teammates more involved in the final 11 games of the regular season.
“If guys are helping onto me more, that just means that my teammates are wide open,” he said. “One of our assistants, Coach A.J. [Guyton], told me that when you drive to the basket, don’t be close-minded. Make sure you can see 360 degrees from where you are. That’s been a big focus of mine. I’m trying to find the open guys for open shots.”
The Greyhounds (7-13, 3-4 Patriot League) are tied for sixth in the Patriot League with American (9-9, 3-4), but could help themselves by defeating Colgate (12-8, 4-3) on Saturday in a noon home game. Contributing to a possible run to the conference title tops any personal achievements, Kostecka said.
“It’s a good feeling,” he said of being recognized as one of the top players in the Patriot League. Seeing all of my hard and kind of finally being recognized is nice. But I can’t be excited. We still have a lot of work to do, and we still have one ultimate goal, and we still have to work as hard as we can to achieve it.”
Andrew Kostecka info box
Get to know … Andrew Kostecka
After two solid seasons for the Loyola Maryland men’s basketball program, Andrew Kostecka, a junior guard, has emerged as one of the top players in the Patriot League, leading the conference in points and steals. Here is a glance at the 21-year-old Germantown native who is leading the Greyhounds.
Year; PPG; RPG; Assists; Steals; Blocks
2016-17; 7.1; 2.7; 33; 27; 12
2017-18; 11.0; 3.7; 48; 54; 29
2018-19; 20.7; 5.1; 49; 43; 16