Dustin Hogue had never been to Madison Square Garden before Thursday. Tonight, the life-long Knicks fan will play a key role on the Garden floor as Iowa State tries to move one step closer to the Final Four.
Here’s my story about the Yonkers native finally coming home, (UPDATED) including an extensive interview with Hogue:
NEW YORK – The closest Dustin Hogue had been to Madison Square Garden before Thursday was the other side of a car window. His only view of the inside came through a TV screen.
So now there he stood Thursday afternoon on the same floor as all those Knicks legends, from Walt Frazier and Willis Reed to Bernard King and Patrick Ewing, and the man known best for defense and rebounding suddenly couldn’t miss a shot.
“Must be that hometown advantage,” the Yonkers native said.
The 6-foot-6 junior returned to New York as Iowa State prepared to play UConn in Friday night’s Sweet 16 doubleheader at the Garden. The last part proved especially significant to the only Cyclone player from the tri-state area.
Hogue, a lifelong Knicks fan, will have quite the vantage point for his first game at the Garden: The court.
“I definitely have to show out. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me,” said Hogue, who averages 10.9 points per game and leads the team in rebounding at 8.5 per game. “With me playing all the way in the Midwest and getting to play in front of my family and friends, it’s something special. I have to take full advantage of it.”
Hogue said he received over 150 text messages from ticket-seekers after Sunday’s comeback win over North Carolina. He primed teammates for theirs, and has produced 19 for family and friends.
“I owe a lot of people favors,” he said.
His supporters will include his parents, Doug and Alicia, three sisters and two brothers, including former Roosevelt football star Doug Hogue, who played linebacker at Syracuse and in the NFL.
“It’s great for him to come back home so everyone can recognize and see his talent,” said Doug Jr., who now plays in the CFL for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. “We haven’t seen him in person in so long. This is like a holiday.”
Dustin, the baby in the family, spent just two weeks at home last summer and hasn’t been back since. He won’t have time to greet his full contingent until after the game, but already provided them with plenty of motivation to show out themselves.
Despite the seventh-seeded Huskies being the lowest remaining seed, UConn fans are expected to pack the arena. Case in point: As of Thursday afternoon, the cheapest available seat — just a measly bar stool — went for $594 on StubHub.
“I told them, they’re going to have to cancel out that crowd and they looked at it like, ‘Challenge accepted,’ ” Hogue said. “They’re ready to take on whatever the UConn fans are trying to bring.”
Doug Sr. said he and his family never looked far enough ahead to know the East regional would be played in New York until after Iowa State beat North Carolina last Sunday. The Hogues have since rounded up children, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews for what Doug Jr. has deemed “a Garden party.”
“Once we found out it was in New York everybody went crazy,” Doug Sr. said. “Right now there are already butterflies in my stomach.”
The moment will be a rewarding next step for Hogue, whose journey home has been circuitous. He left Lincoln High School for NIA Prep in Newark, N.J., and spent the last two years at Indian Hills Community College.
Before Friday night, Hogue’s closest game to home has been West Virginia.
“He deserves to come back home and play in front of his family,” said Brooklyn-born assistant Matt Abdelmassih, who recruited Hogue from Indian Hills. “It’s all come full circle. It’ll be awesome to hear his name called on Friday night.”
“And if we win this game, I get to stay to Sunday,” Hogue noted. “Hopefully we win so I can spend a couple extra days with my friends and family.”
Here’s video of Hogue at practice: