A mark of excellence: Hoge finishing fine career with Jimmies
Mark Hoge hopes to play professional basketball overseas someday.
The free-spirited, Mohawk-wearing senior from Ironton, Minn., has gone from role player his first two seasons to one of the best players in the NAIA. To the always self-assured but personable Hoge, his success is no surprise.
“I was always taught to believe that I was better than the person in front of me. Some people view that as being cocky. I don’t think it’s about being cocky — it’s just believing in yourself and having confidence,” Hoge said. “You have to put the work in. You have to keep bettering yourself and I feel like I’ve always had the drive to keep working at it, keep getting better and doing whatever it takes.”
Coach Justin Wieck said it’s not an act or false bravado.
“When Mark walks into the gym, he thinks he’s the best player and with the way he’s played the last two years it’s hard to dispute that,” Wieck said. “We’ve played against a lot of good teams and a lot of very good individual players and from what I’ve seen, nobody’s playing any better than he is. The guy can affect the game in so many ways on the both ends of the floor.
“He’s playing at an extremely high level.”
Hoge was an under-the-radar recruit for the Jimmies. It was Jeff Trumbauer, two coaches ago, that originally lured Hoge to Jamestown after seeing him explode for a 27-point game at Minnesota’s state tournament. Shortly thereafter, however, Trumbauer left to become an assistant coach at Augustana (S.D.).
After Matt Murken was hired, he pushed hard to keep Hoge and it was a match.
“I didn’t play AAU basketball, so nobody really knew anything about me,” Hoge said. “Jamestown was a program with a lot of success and Trumbauer made me feel wanted and then Murken convinced me to stay when he took over.
“For me, it’s worked out great. I’ve had a lot of fun and we’ve had a lot of success as a team, so really, I couldn’t have planned it out much better.”
Hoge has built a stellar résumé heading into his final two collegiate games. He currently ranks ninth in career scoring (1,476) at Jamestown, but has really expanded his impact in his final season. Besides averaging 17.6 points per game, he also leads the team in rebounds (6.2), assists (4.4) and steals (1.9).
The Jimmies (15-12) host Presentation College tonight in the North Star Athletic Association tournament semifinals at 6 p.m. A win would put them in the championship game Monday night, also here.
“Statistically, his season has been incredible, but the guy also has intangibles in how hard he works and his will to win,” Wieck said. “He obviously wants to do well, but he also wants his teammates to have success and he really wants to win.”
There wasn’t much winning going on early in the season, though as the Jimmies went just 5-11 in the first half of the campaign. Once New Year’s Day rolled around, they turned the page.
“We don’t even talk about the first semester. It was miserable. We just couldn’t get it going it seemed like,” Hoge said. “But you look at the last two months and we’re a totally different team. I always knew we had a good team. We have good players and to turn it around like we have has proven that. That doesn’t erase what happened early on, but I think it shows the character of our team to keep grinding away and end up having a good season.”
Hoge will graduate next December with a degree in mass communications and minor in psychology. He’s hoping to put off using that in favor of playing for pay abroad.
“From Day 1 my goal has always been to play pro basketball, that’s my dream,” Hoge said.
Wieck isn’t going to doubt him, saying he’s clearly good enough to play at a higher level collegiately.
“There’s no question he could play in the NSIC,” Wieck said of what is widely regarded as the top NCAA Division II league in the country. “What we find in recruiting sometimes with kids is, yeah, they could go to D-II and have a good career, but we try to sell them on coming to this level and being special and leave a mark on a program and help us be successful.
“In Mark’s case, that’s what he’s done. He’s left a mark and he’ll be remembered.”
And it certainly won’t be just for the hair, although he admits to feeding off the attention it sometimes brings.
“In high school we could never grow our hair out long, so last year I was finally able to grow it out long and I like having a full head of hair. … All my brothers cut Mohawks and I like that look so I went with it,” he said. “I hear a lot of crazy stuff from the opposing crowds. I know it gives them fuel to come at me, but the more they come at me, the better I play.”
It’s hard to argue with the results. He could his finish his career with more than 1,500 points, 500 rebounds and 300 assists while becoming a two-time All-American.
“I like to be a little different and do my own thing,” he said. “It seems to have worked out OK.”
Sun sports editor Dave Selvig can be reached at (701) 952-8460 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org