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Northwestern's Reggie Hearn finally has Bill Carmody's attention

Northwestern guard Reggie Hearn (11) plays against Minnesota during an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2012 in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Paul Battaglia)

Junior guard Reggie Hearn is the first to admit there were times he was frustrated trying to get coach Bill Carmody’s attention in his first two years at Northwestern.

But the former walk-on doesn’t have to worry anymore.

“I finally opened my eyes,” Carmody said. “He’s gotten better and better. I hope I wasn’t that blind for two years because he’s been very solid for us.”

The Fort Wayne, Ind., native has started all 19 games for the Wildcats, averaging 6.1 points, 3.1 rebounds and 23.2 minutes. He finally got a scholarship, too.

Hearn and the Wildcats (12-7, 2-5) will try to snap a two-game skid when they face Purdue (14-7, 4-4) on Saturday at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

Hearn got the starting job in the wake of injuries in the Wildcats’ backcourt. Freshman Tre Demps had season-ending shoulder surgery in December. JerShon Cobb still isn’t 100 percent since offseason surgery on his left hip. Alex Marcotullio has struggled since the preseason with a sore left big toe and a concussion suffered in the Michigan State game Jan. 14.

“[Hearn is] a Steady Eddie, and he defends well and is shooting the ball well,” Carmody said. “I challenged him the past couple of weeks because he defers to the other guys and he doesn’t need to. I’m very pleased with the way he’s worked so hard.”

Even though it was obvious that Marcotullio and Cobb weren’t going to do much early in the season and Demps was too inexperienced, Hearn was surprised he got the call.

It’s a far cry from where he came from.

As a senior at Snider High School, Hearn was a 6-4, 195-pound power forward who only had offers from ­Division II and III and NAIA schools. He focused on academics and applied to Butler and Notre Dame, but neither would take him as a walk-on. Then Hearn spoke with then-Wildcats assistant Mitch Henderson, who left the door open for Hearn to walk on.

Hearn played 13 games as a freshman and 19 last season.

“In order to play in the first couple years, I had to embarrass the recruited guys and show I was able to play, but I didn’t do enough to convince [Carmody] to put me on the court,” Hearn said. “I didn’t show Coach enough in practice, and I admit there were times I wasn’t giving it my all. And if a player is doing that, does he really deserve to play?”

Luckily for the Wildcats, Hearn figured it out.