Without Hulsey, the Owls are a different basketball team. The defense isn’t as sharp, and they aren’t as successful moving the ball around. Hulsey injured his ankle early against Arkansas St. FAU lost that game, and their next three without Hulsey.
Since his return, the Owls are 3-3, with all three losses coming against teams atop Conference USA.
“When Payton plays, this is a confident basketball team,” FAU coach Michael Curry said.
A reserve prior to the injury, Curry elevated Hulsey to the starting unit for his second game back from injury.
“When Payton is out, it changes the whole dynamics of our team,” Curry said.
Not a true scorer, Hulsey’s ability to run the Owls’ offense and skill on the defensive end – Curry said he feels comfortable putting Hulsey on guards or forwards – set him apart. While he only averages 6.1 points per game, he also contributes 2.9 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game.
Hulsey, 6’5 215 pounds, gives him a size advantage against most guards. With his size and height, he can also cover some of the bigger guys if need be.
“I don’t really care about scoring and all the big accolades,” Hulsey said. “I just do whatever it takes to win, if it’s rebounding, playing defense, it’s what I do best.”
Curry compared Hulsey to a young Scotty Pippen in the sense that he’s the defensive player that allows Michael Jordan to score.
The Owls’ obviously lack a player of Jordan’s caliber. Guards Justin Massey and Gerdarius Troutman average 13.3 and 12.5 points per game respectively. Center Ronald Delph enters tonight’s at North Texas averaging 13.2 points per game.
Curry, however, insists it would be easier to find a replacement for all three of those players than it would Hulsey because it’s easier to find a scorer than it is a defensive threat.
A senior, Hulsey transferred from College of Charleston before the start of the season for his final year of basketball. Hulsey was Colonial Athletic Association All-Defensive Team performer at Charleston, before he became the force not to be reckoned with at FAU.
The secret for the Owls’ success in the second half of the season is simple.
“Keep Payton Hulsey healthy,” Curry said.