If you are going to have a fan, it doesn’t hurt if it’s the head coach.
Joe Hoeup, a 2015 Elsie Allen High grad and basketball standout for the Lobos, averaged just 3 minutes of playing time this season for the Hardin-Simmons University Cowboys, but the minutes he got showed head coach Craig Carse that there are good things to come.
“I have very high expectations for Joe. I think he’s going to be phenomenal,” Carse said. “I started coaching college basketball in 1977 and I have never had a player with a better attitude (or had a) better team person.”
Hoeup was the backup point guard for the team that for the first time in Hardin-Simmons history won the American Southwest Conference tournament and earned its first-ever invitation to the Division III NCAA tournament. Hardin-Simmons downed Texas Lutheran before falling to Benedictine University on Saturday.
“We made history,” Hoeup said.
Hoeup is ready for more. And he’s working for it.
The California kid — the lone outsider among his Lone Star State teammates — said he has added 20 pounds to his 6-foot-1 frame since leaving Elsie Allen. He’s still the smallest guy on the squad.
But Hoeup is a fighter. He was a star for the Lobos as a junior. One game — scratch that, one scrimmage into his senior season, Hoeup was going up for a layup against Maria Carrillo and came down wrong on this left angle. Snap. Broken.
“But I did make the layup,” he said.
The break relegated Hoeup to a cast, crutches and a seat on the bench during the Lobos’ historic run to the Sonoma County League title. But it also gave him something else that he’s used in spades this year — perspective.
Hoeup saw action in 17 of the Cowboys’ 30 games this season but only averaged 3 minutes in nonconference contests and just under 2 minutes in conference play.
It takes something — Character? Grit? Humility? — to endure long stretches of inaction.
“It did give me second thoughts, ‘Should I be playing? Why am I here on the bench?’ ” he said. “It’s a learning experience and like a flashback to my senior year, sitting on the bench, learning mentally.”
The time helped him see the game in new ways.
“It’s a really difficult task being a point guard in college but I really think my knowledge makes it a fit for me and I love it,” he said.
That attitude, perhaps more than his leaping ability, more than his shooters’ touch, more than his basketball IQ, is what will make him a success at the Division III level, Carse said.
“He’s been a guy who, what I would say, bit his tongue,” Carse said. “But what Joe has shown is his character, his coachability and his toughness.”
“He’s young. He came in at 17 but I believe Joe is a major part of our future.”
Hoeup showed glimmers of that this season, even in limited minutes.
On the road against University of Texas-Dallas, the Cowboys were trailing 31-30 with 3 minutes to play in the first half of the conference tournament opener. It was the only time all tournament that the Cowboys would fall behind. According to Hardin-Simmons director of communications Chad Grubbs, Hoeup scored seven points in 3 minutes to ignite a run that put the Cowboys up by nine heading into the locker room.