AMES — A “toughness guy.” A rebounder. An enforcer.
Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg discerned these dynamic elements (and more) in Dustin Hogue’s game when he recruited the former Indian Hills Community College standout.
But a high-percentage 3-point shooter? Not so much, yet here we are.
“To see him expand his game to where, I mean — when we were recruiting him did I see him one day knocking down the game-winning 3 on the road?” Hoiberg asked rhetorically. “Probably not.”
He’s that guy now, as the 6-6 senior and all-around jump-starter showed when he hit the go-ahead basket from long range in last Wednesday’s 70-65 win at Oklahoma State. The proof’s in the numbers — as Hoiberg noted immediately after the words “probably not.”
Hogue enters Wednesday’s 8 p.m. Big 12 game between the No. 12 Cyclones (20-6, 10-4) and No. 19 Baylor (20-7, 8-6) as his team’s most accurate 3-point shooter at 44.7 percent. In league play, he’s tied with Naismith and Wooden Award finalist Georges Niang, sinking long-range buckets at a 45.7 percent clip.
“He’s on fire,” Niang said of Hogue, who was unavailable at Monday’s media availability. “He’s really putting in the work to become that good of a shooter.”
Hogue left Indian Hills as a 29.6 shooter from long range. He made 8 of 27 from beyond the arc in 25 games his sophomore season, but is 21 of 47 in 26 games this season.
Can that dramatic improvement really arise solely from hard work? Apparently so, according to ISU’s most prolific deep shooter, Naz Long.
“That’s the thing about shooting, you can become better in that area if you put the reps in,” said Long, who, by the way, has hit 14 of his last 22 3-pointers in the past four meetings with the Bears. “It’s one thing to have IQ, it’s one thing to be a great ball handler, shooting is just an art where if you just put in the reps, you’ll get a good feel for it. Dustin’s been putting in the reps and he’s believing in himself.”
He’s not the only one.
Matt Thomas came off the bench in Saturday’s 85-77 win at Texas to shoot 4 of 6 from long range en route to a career-high 17 points. Teammates have insisted that for Thomas, getting hot was a matter of when, not if.
“I’ve scored points before, I’ve made shots before, and it’s just funny that it’s such a big deal right now, but I understand it,” said Thomas, who’s drilled at least one 3 off the bench in four of the past five games after not hitting one in six of the previous seven. “I am looking forward to the day where I can go out and do my thing and it’s expected.”
That day may or may not be here. Either way, Thomas has established peak confidence and that could spell trouble for a Bears team the Cyclones have collective shot 40 of 87 from 3-point range against in the past four meetings.
“It does open up things,” Hoiberg said of a hot-shooting Thomas. “Teams can’t sit in there and plug the middle. And even when Matt maybe wasn’t shooting as well, they still guarded him because they know he’s capable of knocking down shots like that. But it really opens up the floor.”
For Thomas, Niang, Long, Monté Morris, Bryce Dejean-Jones and, yes, Hogue.
All five of them are shooting 37.3 percent or better from beyond the arc over the past four games. Hogue’s converted 8 of 15 3s in that span — and obviously confidence has never been an issue for the Yonkers, N.Y., product.
“He led the country the first game of last year when he was 1-for-1 and he never lets that down,” Long said. “So every time he shoots a 3 in practice we all yell, ‘best in the country,’ and I think he’s actually believing that now because he hunts his shot and he’s shooting it so well. Credit to him, man. He’s just been putting in the work and he deserves it.”