LEWISBURG -- A couple of days into his second season at Bucknell, Dave Paulsen watched his freshman power forward for a few moments at practice. It was there he realized as good as he thought Joe Willman was, he was actually even better.
"You never know what's going to happen with a guy, but we felt like there was no way he wasn't going to be good," said Paulsen. "He knew he was a smart player, but about a week into practice, you're like 'Oh, my God, his basketball IQ is just off the charts.'
"He might be the smartest player I've ever coached."
That is saying something considering where Paulsen is now and where he's been.
And while guys like Bryan Cohen and Mike Muscala grab headlines, Willman goes about his business. He brings his lunch pail to the court every day, does his job, and Bucknell wins.
Willman has turned in two dominating performances in the opening round of the Patriot League tournament and one more win puts the Bison back in the NCAA tournament for the second year in a row.
Bucknell (24-8) hosts second-seeded Lehigh (25-7) in a much-anticipated league title game tonight at 7. The game will be televised live on CBS Sports Network.
Paulsen said when he and his coaching staff were looking at players to bring in as part of his first recruiting class at Bucknell, it was apparent early on that Willman was going to be one of the centerpieces.
The coaches never backed away for one minute when Willman broke both wrists during his senior year after he was undercut dunking the ball and they have been rewarded.
Willman started the first game of his freshman season and 77 of the 97 games he has played in over his career. He has played in every game since he arrived on campus as part of a recruiting class that including Muscala, sharp-shooter Bryson Johnson and local product Colin Klebon.