Nothin' But Net

An obsession with basketball takes CBC seniors Ryan Johnson and D.J. Hogue through a successful -- but heartbreaking -- season

Hogue's father, Lee Hogue, remembers the first game of the season well, the CBC Cadets taking on the underdog McCluer North Stars.

The game was his son's first for CBC after his transfer from Jefferson City High, where he was a point guard on a team that went to the state semis last year, finishing third. During the summer, Hogue had played for the Springfield Rockets, a Southern Missouri Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) summer team that would make some noise regionally, and he also began to work with his new squad at CBC; the group went undefeated in a St. Louis University camp, playing teams from other area high schools.

Through the summer, slender D.J. began to integrate himself into the CBC system in a new role -- that of a slashing, small forward. He was expected to handle different defensive responsibilities, with rebounding a bigger part of the role. The transition was made even harder because shooting guard Mike Van Hee was inactive the first seven games, leaving Hogue as the designated three-point threat.

Against McCluer North, he debuted with 25 points, on five-of-10 shooting, three-of-six from long range. The team would win the game, 78-58, though they'd trail 23-22 at the end of the free-form first quarter. Huddled together, McCormack started quietly before quickly breaking into full voice: "We just gave up 23 to this team. We're on a pace ... we're on a pace TO BREAK THE CLOCK! Let's have a little pride in what we're doing! Let's guard somebody! What have you been doing for the past four months? Can someone tell me?"

The team responded the rest of the afternoon, clearly motivated by McCormack's spirited words, which rang through a gym that was near-empty because of an early 3:30 start time. It would be the first of many wake-up calls.

Lee Hogue was surprised by the coach's strong words and worried about his son's reaction: "It's his senior year, a brand-new school, a brand-new program. That's a big adjustment for a kid, no friends, even," he says. "I remember that first game. This is after he played at (SLU coach Charlie) Spoonhour's camp, in the Vashon league. This the first game and the first time out, and I'm thinking, 'I haven't seen this all summer. I can't remember seeing this before.'"

But D.J. seemed accepting of McCor-mack's criticism. "Coach is always upfront," he says. "He knows exactly what he wants, and I've learned what he expects."

Hogue admits, that coming into the season, he wasn't aware of just how deep CBC's guard rotation could be. Over the year, he shared time with Johnson; junior gunner Van Hee; sophomore Ryan Sapp, the backup point guard and a reliable three-shooter; and Jeremy Jones, a lightning-quick defensive whiz who was initially ineligible but eventually played in 17 games (Jones then quit the team during the waning moments of the first Vashon game, an emotional, 20-point loss in the regular-season finale).

For the most part, though, Hogue was a mainstay in the starting lineup. He missed a few games with the flu, didn't start in a couple of others. In what was for him a slowly building season, Hogue had a few breakout games, but his shot left him in others, such as a one-for-10 performance against DeSmet on New Year's Eve. Still, he persevered, like all shooters with an attitude, continuing to put the ball up through slumps. Best of all, he eventually became a fairly accomplished rebounder.

"D.J.'s a talented young kid," McCormack says. "I think, more than anything, he puts pressure on himself. He really responded by the end of the year. He played some really good games early against Belleville East, Borgia -- good teams. He really started to rebound for us, working hard at both ends of the floor. I wish I would have had him for more than one year.

"We were extremely excited when we found out he was going to be coming here. He was excited; the staff was excited. Things have really worked out. D.J.'s not a real vocal kid; neither is Ryan. But they have shown some leadership."

Scoring, not just providing leadership, was Hogue's main goal -- not only to impress the college scouts, who may be in the stands at any given game, but to get his team over the hump. Hogue said, with a week left in the season, "I like to score. I've done that so-so. Right now, I have to score for us to win."

Whatever pressure he puts on himself to score, Hogue says that he hasn't felt burdened by being a senior without a clear-cut scholarship. Some players, their hearts dead-set on a certain college and tuition being offered, hitch on during the fall signing period. Others, waiting to see what options develop, don't ink until the spring signing period, after narrowing their choices and taking their recruiting trips.

It's clear that both Hogue and his father would've loved for St. Louis University to show more of an interest. SLU coaches were in the stands for some of CBC's early games, and Hogue was even the object of interest from a resurgent Northwestern of the Big 10, but in recruiting the only certainty is change. One year a kid's on any number of wish lists, but a single poor outing can cause that list to shrink. It just seemed that whenever SLU was in the building, Hogue had one of his off nights.

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