HOUSTON - For many people the first time they ever heard about Corey "CJ" Hadnot probably came on Saturday night while scrolling through Twitter checking area basketball scores.
The Cypress Creek sophomore had hit a straight-away, buzzer-beating three to force double overtime against Lamar in a game they would go on to win 67-63. He also had five points in that double-overtime period to seal the win.
But for Daniel Trocquet and staff, they knew Hadnot was special from the first time he stepped on the court in Cypress Creek High School.
Trocquet didn't know anything about Hadnot, who had just moved from Atlanta, Georgia, but quickly caught his eye when the then-freshman dunked over another player at the tryout. He was instantly on JV. There, he averaged 32 points per game as a freshman - if you ask senior DJ Richards, it was 39.
"He really caught our attention not from what he said but what he does," Trocquet said. "I think that's what he does as a player. He wants to earn people's respect through his play."
The respect that he's earned is evident. Just ask Richards about the sophomore.
Richards, who has garnered interest from East Carolina, Houston, Idaho and been offered by Nicholls State, recognizes the hard work of Hadnot the most.
"The fact that he can go for 25-plus and practice the next day like he shot 0-for-10 like he always working hard and takes on any challenge," Richards said. "He's of the hardest workers I know and then remains so humble through the process. He is just a great person and I look forward to seeing what the future holds for him."
Trocquet added: "As a 15-16-year-old kid to earn the respect of kids that are about to go to college, that's tough to do. And he's done that."
In the most recent playoff win for Cypress Creek - a 74-54 victory over Fort Bend Travis on Wednesday night - Hadnot had another clutch moment. With 3.7 seconds remaining in the half, Hadnot caught a pass from Richards, dribbled to his left and pulled up from beyond the arc. As the buzzer sounded, the ball banked off the backboard and in.
Hadnot finished with a team-leading 22 points in only his second-ever playoff game.
"It's an experience," Hadnot said. "Last playoff game was my first one and so this was my second. I just try to carry on and not get the hype all in my system. Try and stay humble. It's a blessing honestly. I just try to take advantage of every chance I get to put in work.
"I just try to work every day. I just try to do what I can for the team, the coach and the program."
VYPE Highlights 🎥: @CyCreek_Hoops advances to Reg. Quarters for first time in 18 years— vypehouston (@vypehouston) February 25, 2021
Check out the highlights from @cycreekhs big 20-point victory | @chadnot32 had 22 | @DJRich727 w/ 18 .. 19-straight wins | @hoopinsider @KPRC2RandyMc @ray_zepeda1 @CyCreekBooster @ahverdejo pic.twitter.com/piShwqXW0D
But just like Richards said and Trocquet confirmed, all of these numbers and big moments will not give Hadnot a big head. His confidence is growing but it's not cockiness.
"He's a high-character kid, he's a workhorse but at the same time, he's very humble," Trocquet said. "He feels like he's not good enough and he needs to continue to progress. That's the best thing about him. He wants to be great and he wants big moments.
"The kid knows how to finish, he has confidence and he's going to be an incredible player as he grows up."
Shining in the shadows is the way Hadnot has played this season, Trocquet said and he likes that role and his confidence is growing with every single game.
But Hadnot is not only good at nailing buzzer-beaters on the court but also acing the classroom portion of being a student-athlete. He's the all-around player every coach wants to have.
And Trocquet has one.
"As a sophomore, it's incredible to see," he said. "I've yet to have a sophomore that does that much at his age. Very mature. We've had kids that have talent but can't get it done in the classroom, then we've had kids that have great academics and aren't as talented as a player. He's someone that has both.
"He's a committed student, he's driven and he's told me many times he wants to play high-level basketball."