There’s still a rather nasty scar on the side of Phil Hogan’s left hand. And the area around it remains a little red and swollen.
But the only difference fans at O.C. Lewis Gymnasium are likely to notice in the Anderson University men’s basketball star’s game this week is the mass of white tape that engulfs most of the hand. It helps to hold in place a small cast that in turn protects the broken bone still healing with a pair of pins inserted to fasten it together.
Doctors told Hogan he really should wait two or three more weeks to return to the court. But that would have meant watching his senior season end from the sideline, and that simply wasn’t going to happen.
“Obviously, I don’t have time for that,” Hogan said in the hallway outside the Ravens’ locker room after Monday’s practice. “There’s no 100 percent way to totally protect it. I’m putting it on the line, but I’ve got to. It’s my senior year, and we’re trying to make the tournament. I’ve got to make some sacrifices.”
[Photo: Phil Hogan prepares to dunk during a game last season.]
The broken hand cost Hogan four weeks and eight games. Because he’d already played in more than 30 percent of his team’s schedule, he isn’t eligible for an NCAA medical redshirt. That would have given him another year of eligibility and perhaps allowed him time to heal properly.
Instead, Hogan returned on Feb. 2 against Bluffton. Anderson (10-13, 6-10 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference) went 1-7 without their floor leader in the lineup. They’ve won two of three since his return and need wins at home Wednesday against Manchester and Saturday against Mount St. Joseph — plus at least one loss by Bluffton — to claim the sixth and final spot in the HCAC tournament.
“I’m really excited with where we are at,” AU coach Owen Handy said. “We’re playing pretty well, too. It’s no fluke. I’m pleased with how we’re playing.”
Hogan has made a tremendous difference.
He struggled in his first game back, shooting just 4-of-17 from the field and scoring 10 points. But he made the game-winner in a 79-77 decision against Bluffton.
The next time out, he poured in 33 points in a 93-85 loss at Hanover. And then came the real heroics.
With four seconds remaining Saturday at Franklin, Hogan made a 3-point shot and was fouled. He made the ensuing free throw to complete a 25-point game and give the Ravens a 75-74 victory, keeping their postseason hopes alive.
“That’s the first time I’ve been present for that to happen in a gym,” Handy said of the rare game-winning four-point play.
On Monday, Hogan was named the HCAC’s Player of the Week for the third time this season. He’s averaging 26.1 points per game and needs to average 25 the rest of the season to break Johnny Wilson’s school record of 25.4 that has stood since the 1949-50 season.
How rare is Hogan’s senior campaign? Just one of the top-10 scoring seasons in AU history have been recorded since 1971.
Remarkably, the Ravens star never has had the chance to meet Wilson in person. He said that’s one of the few remaining goals in his collegiate career.
“Just to be around his name in the record books,” Hogan mused. “You look at our record books, and his name is everywhere. He was so consistent. He didn’t do it for just one season.”
Indeed, Wilson also holds the fourth-highest scoring season in AU history with 24.6 points per game in 1948-49. The former Indiana Mr. Basketball ranks seventh in career points, but he played in 33 fewer games than all-time leader Ken Strawn.
Wilson’s career average of 23.3 points per game is nearly two points better than Strawn’s (21.6).
Hogan thanks his teammates for giving him the opportunities to score. And he’s been more than generous in return. He’s averaged 7 assists per game since his return, and his season average of 4.6 ranks third in the HCAC.
One of the benefits of Hogan’s absence is that it forced other Ravens to quickly mature. Handy points to Max Mollaun’s scoring, Nate Gross’ steady improvement, Cody Jackson and Isaac Loechle’s shooting, and Carson Breckenridge’s consistency as products of Hogan’s sabbatical.
But there’s no questioning everybody’s relief at the star’s return.
“The great thing about this team is they just want to win,” Handy said. “And they know that’s most likely to happen for us when Phil has the ball in his hands.”
— George Bremer is a report for The Herald Bulletin. Story reposted with permission.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of about 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson University continues to be recognized as one of America's top colleges by U.S. News and World Report, The Princeton Review, and Forbes. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, music, nursing, and theology.