Giusti could always handle the ball, but he turned into a tenacious defender in challenging practice sessions guarding Saint Mary's star point guard Matthew Dellavedova ’13.

Redshirt freshman Jordan Giusti never imagined he'd end up in the national spotlight

Jordan Giusti had played in plenty of pressure-packed situations before, but this one was different. There he stood, near center court at the University of Dayton, waiting for the opening tip as the Saint Mary's men's basketball team played Middle Tennessee State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Not a bad spot for a guy to make his first collegiate start—especially a walk-on who didn't even know if he was going to be playing for the Gaels when he came to Saint Mary's.

It may have been teammate Jordan Page's knee injury that transported Giusti from obscurity as a walk-on redshirt freshman to the national spotlight, but he wasn't just handed the role. He earned it with a hard-nosed brand of defense, born in bruising practice sessions where he guarded Saint Mary's star Matthew Dellavedova. So when the time came, he took it in stride.

"Starting is much different, but I knew my role and I knew what I was there to do," Giusti said.

An amiable, low-key student, the 6-foot-2 Giusti turns into a tenacious, in-your-face opponent on the court. He forced a key turnover in the Gaels' crucial 69-66 overtime win against San Diego in the WCC Tournament and stuck to his opponents like glue in the NCAA.

He acknowledges that his size makes him look like an easy target, but that doesn't stop him. "You look at me and you are going to think I am a vulnerable defender," he said. "So, I have to bring it every day."

Giusti, who is from Danville, came to Saint Mary's as a gifted player from San Ramon Valley High, with a history of being able to adapt and make plays. And now, the label of playmaker fits far better than that of walk-on.

"It was pretty cool to play in," Giusti said of his NCAA appearance. "It was an awesome experience."

And it may be the first of many big moments to come.

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