Andrew Ardissone is a basketball sage.
He may not look the part at Pacific Lutheran University. Heck, he just entered the Lutes’ starting lineup seven games ago — after spending his first three seasons fighting for spot duty off the bench.
In 78 career games, he has scored in double figures once — tallying 10 points last month against Pacific.
But to understand Ardissone’s real contributions to PLU, which hosts crosstown rival Puget Sound on Tuesday night in the final week of Northwest Conference action, you cannot search for them on a stat sheet. They rarely show up there.
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But with teammates, his efforts are recognized all the time.
The 6-foot-2 senior from Rocklin, California, can play all five positions in a pinch. He was recently inserted into the starting five because the Lutes had grown stagnant on offense, and he is arguably their best facilitator in ball and player movement.
And he does lead the conference in one aspect: taking offensive charges.
“Mike Shaw, my AAU coach (with Youth Basketball Academy), was the one who taught me how to do that,” Ardissone said. “I was the only third-grader in the world taking charges. But he told me early on that meant the team gained an extra possession off a turnover, and that was valuable.”
During his senior season at Rocklin High School, Ardissone took 52 charges in 24 games. The student body kept track of them, too, on a grease board.
In his first college appearance at PLU, he took three charges against Willamette — in a 2 ½-minute span.
“It throws off the other team,” Lutes coach Steve Dickerson said. “He gets under the skin of the opponents, and it also motivates our guys.”
Ardissone said he gets called all sorts of names by the opposing players who run into him and draw the foul.
“I get called a blippin’ flopper. Guys will stand over me and tell me how weak I am,” Ardissone said. “I get up laughing because I know they are not smart enough to jump stop — something that is taught in first grade.”
Of course, Ardissone is always savvy enough to know that every time he sets his feet and draws contact, he won’t get the call in his favor — especially after he’s taken a few charges earlier in a game.
“All the time, I have refs tell me, ‘Hey, that was a great take, but I can’t give it to you,’ ” Ardissone said. “You have to know when to take it. It’s an instinct thing now.”
Yet away from the court, especially last season, it became evident that standing in the way of all that contact began taking a heavy toll on Ardissone’s 204-pound body.
He suffered two stress fractures in his back. And his hips were always sore.
So last summer, in the three months he spent at his father’s house in Dallas, he lost 25 pounds to take pressure of his joints.
“I went to the gym twice a day,” Ardissone said. “I cleaned up my diet by cutting out bread, cheese and soda.
“When I came back for weigh-ins (at PLU), I weighed 178 pounds. I felt a lot better. I felt a lot quicker, too.”
As the Lutes battle for one of the final conference playoff spots down the stretch, Ardissone will continue to see heavy minutes, doing all the little things to try to get his team a victory.
When asked what his natural basketball position would be, Ardissone shrugged his shoulders, as if to say he didn’t really have one.
But an answer popped into his head.
“Quarterback,” he said.