AMES -- The words lurk in Iowa State junior Dustin Hogue’s mind, sometimes distant, sometimes close.
They both demean and uplift, and they crystallize in one blunt phrase: ’You’ll never be a Division I basketball player.’
“There’s a lot of naysayers where I’m from,” said Hogue, who proudly hails from Yonkers, N.Y., and has flourished with the third-seeded Cyclones (27-6), who open NCAA tournament East regional play at 8:50 p.m. Friday against 14th-seeded North Carolina Central at San Antonio, Texas. “When I’m playing, I always think of them.”
But whether Hogue’s playing or not, he thinks of — and communicates — with his older brother, Doug Hogue, Jr.
And doubt is never a topic of conversation.
“I’ve always told him this: I expect him to be better and do bigger things than me,” Doug Hogue said in a telephone interview.
That’s saying something, considering Doug ranks ninth all-time in Syracuse football history with 26.5 tackles for loss, and played in the NFL for the Detroit Lions and Carolina Panthers.
He’s bound for the Canadian Football League’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers in May — after he continues work toward his master’s degree — and Dustin credits him for his toughness.
“Ironically, he’s the one that taught me more about basketball than anybody else,” said Dustin Hogue, who averages 10.7 points and 8.6 rebounds. “He just always told me to be aggressive on the court. Leave it all out there.”
Doug not only told him that.
He showed him.
When the two brothers scrapped around the playgrounds and at home, Doug didn’t take it easy.
“I was kind of a little softie back in the day,” said Dustin, who now earns fully un-soft nicknames such as “monster” and “beast” from friends and foes alike.
“Dustin was never a softie,” Doug Hogue said, laughing. “Never. But being the big brother, I kind of had my way with him a little bit.”
Try doing that now.
Hogue earned Oscar Robertson national player of the week honors in December after a 22-point, 16-rebound effort in a rout of Auburn.
He’s angrily dunked nine times.
His late strip of Kansas State’s Marcus Foster in the Big 12 tournament quarterfinals helped turn a three-point lead into a five-point cushion and eventual triumph, which set up the Cyclones’ first conference tournament title run in 14 years.
“Do you see them out there?” ISU star and Big 12 player of the year Melvin Ejim said. “The dude’s a beast. He has no regard for life, (including) his own.”
What he does value highly are grit and gumption.
Hogue had 16 points in a nonconference win over Iowa.
He’s collected 10 or more boards in 12 games and the Cyclones won 10 of those.
“When he produces, we win games,” ISU forward Georges Niang said.
That’s naturally what’s on Hogue’s mind now as the detractors retreat.
“It’s not going to be an easy road,” he said. “Teams are going to come out giving everything they’ve got.”
Just like Hogue, who said people from New York “play hard ball.”
And while that truism covers both words and actions, the latter always wins out.“When I see him out there and I see him throwing his body around, I’m just proud,” Doug Hogue said. “Proud.”