By George Bremer
For The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
For Anderson University senior Phil Hogan, competition is a way of life.
Growing up in Indianapolis’ Pike Township, Hogan routinely played with and against future NBA players — and former Anderson residents — Jeff and Marcus Teague.
“There was never a non-intense basketball setting,” Hogan said Monday, following practice at O.C. Lewis Gymnasium. “Even in P.E. classes. That’s how the whole township is. It’s just how I was brought up.”
It’s also one of the things AU men’s basketball coach Owen Handy likes best about his star player.
Hogan tries to win each drill in every practice. His work ethic is unsurpassed, and his leadership is essential to a team with eight sophomores and two freshmen on the roster.
What Handy appreciates most about Hogan is something most fans will never see.
There are a million words to describe this quality, but “coachable” likely does the job best. When Handy needs to have a talk with his leader — as he did early Monday evening before practice began — the player’s response is immediate.
He’s alert while listening to the criticism, maintaining eye contact with the coach throughout the talk. When it’s over, Hogan doesn’t pout or lose focus.
Instead, he gets the same steely-eyed determination that must have stood out even at Pike.
In Monday’s case, Handy wasn’t happy with the team’s slow start during a 63-59 loss Saturday at Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference rival Mount St. Joseph. As the Ravens’ only senior, he held Hogan partially responsible. And he let him know it.
When the coach had said his piece, Hogan went out and led a spirited practice that should help Anderson (3-3) get back on track when it hosts Spalding on Wednesday.
“If there’s one thing I’d love for the young guys to learn from Phil, it’s his response when I get after him,” Handy said. “It’s exactly the response you want to see in those situations. The best thing for them to see is how he carries himself as a senior. If they will follow Phil and be led by him, they will learn.”
It’s a new role for Hogan, who spent his first three years at AU playing as part of a potent roster that included premier scorers Brock Morrison and Andrew Bowman in the post.
The dynamic guard said scoring came easily to him last year. With Bowman and Morrison commanding attention from opposing defenses, Hogan scored a career-high 40 points against conference rival Transylvania and led the HCAC with an average of 19.5 points per game.
This year, for the first time, Hogan is dealing with defenses designed specifically to stop him. He said he needs to play at a faster rhythm and find a way to get his shot off quicker.
But it’s hard to say he’s been struggling.
He scored 33 points in a non-conference win against IU-Kokomo and poured in 29 last week in a win against Defiance. That game featured an entertaining shootout between Hogan and the Yellow Jackets’ Logan Wolfrum, who finished with 32 points.
AU won the game 85-81, and Hogan is again leading the HCAC — by about a one-point margin over Wolfrum — with a 21.5-point average.
“In every game we’ve won, Phil’s made plays when he’s had to make plays,” Handy said. “He tried on Saturday. I think he scored 12 in a row at one point.”
Indeed, Hogan led three Ravens in double figures with 19 points against Mount St. Joseph. But he was just 2-of-6 from 3-point range, and that’s the one area of his game Handy can’t wait to see improve.
“I have no gripe with the shots he’s taking,” Handy said. “At some point, he’s going to have a game where he goes 7-of-8 out there. And the other coach is going to be asking, ‘Why did this have to happen against us.’”
Hogan felt like an incoming freshman again during the offseason, adjusting to a new offense and defense after playing for three years under former Ravens coach Tom Slyder.
But there was plenty of time for him to catch up before games started this fall.
Now, he’s just trying to draw on the experience and lessons he’s gained and pass them on to his younger teammates.
“It actually makes me feel a little bit older, playing with a lot of sophomores,” Hogan said. “I remember being a freshman coming in and being recruited. It’s amazing how time flies.”
Hogan chose AU over several junior colleges because he fell in love with the business school. Basketball was secondary.
Six games into his final season with the Ravens — with one HCAC title and an accompanying trip to the NCAA Div. III tournament behind him — he’s happy with the way everything has turned out.
He looks around him at youngsters such as Andrew Larrick, Max Mollaun, Isaac Loechle, Nate Gross, Micah Smith and Adam Miller, and he sees a bright future.
One that may even begin bearing fruit this spring.
“The potential is very high with this group,” Hogan said. “Once we start getting experience, we’re going to be a very, very dangerous team down the stretch.”