Throughout most of his basketball career, John Hoch has heard it a million times. He's too small to play basketball at any kind of high level. He'll never be successful when the competition gets tough.
Hoch heard it first when he was in grade school at North Lake and then heard it during his high school career at Arrowhead.
Heck, he was even hearing it when he was recruited to play college hoops at Carroll University in Waukesha.
But there's good news for the 5-foot-10, 155-pound senior guard. He's not hearing it any more. Not even whispers. Hoch has finally proven all of his critics totally wrong, and now you can't find a John Hoch doubter anywhere.
"I've been hearing that I was too small to play basketball forever," the Carroll senior starting point guard said. "I was confident that I could play in college, but you never know. It's such a different game at the college level. High school basketball is one thing, but the college game is totally different. It's so much tougher, faster, more competitive. Every team, every player is extremely talented. I came into a perfect situation. It's been a great four years for me at Carroll. I'm just glad they had the confidence in me to get me here."
The guy who had the most confidence in Hoch was former Carroll coach Dave Schultz. After leaving a successful run as the Waukesha West varsity boys coach, Schultz took the job at Carroll in 2002. He went after the Arrowhead graduate immediate. Schultz said resigning from the Carroll post last year to return to West was one of the hardest decisions he's ever had to make. He said he hated to leave Hoch.
"I loved it when other college coaches questioned his size and doubted his ability to play college basketball," Schultz said. "He was a four-sport athlete in Arrowhead, was a great student and just a great guy. Those are the kind of athletes you dream about coaching. While some schools passed on him, he was at the top of my list. Pound for pound, inch for inch, he's the best basketball player I've ever coached."
It only took Hoch one year at Carroll to get his feet wet. The last three years have been outstanding for arguably the greatest shooter in Arrowhead history.
As a freshman, Hoch backed up the school's All-American senior guard, Nate Drury. He averaged about 13 minutes per game and learned everything he could about NCAA Division 3 basketball.
The next year, Schultz inserted Hoch into the starting point guard position. Since then, he's started every game at that spot for the Pioneers.
He averaged 16 points per game as a sophomore and improved that number to an impressive 24 points per game last year. In his final season through last week, the physical education major was averaging 23 points and 6 assists per game. He'll end his college career at Carroll in late February as the fifth or sixth-best scorer in school history. His career-best at Carroll was 39 points, set earlier this year.
"I never thought I would have scored that many points. My main goal was to make the starting lineup and contribute in whatever way I had to to help the team. I've worked hard in basketball, and now all of that hard work has paid off. It's been a great run at Carroll."
Hoch, who has been an outstanding shooter since his high school days, has certainly lived up to that reputation at Carroll. This year, he's shooting 48 percent from the field, 43 percent from the 3-point arc and an incredible 86 percent (102 of 119) from the free-throw line.
"John not only can shoot the ball, but he does so many other things that it takes to win games," Schultz said. "It doesn't matter if he's 5-9 or 6-9, he plays the game with a lot of passion and energy. That's the way he played in high school, and that's the way he played in my three years with him at Carroll. He has tremendous work ethic, and it shows on the court, whether he's scoring or playing defense. There are so many positives about John that I could talk all day about him."
Last week, it was announced that Hoch had been named an academic All-American for the 2009-10 season in District 5. By earning that honor, Hoch now is a candidate to be named to the ESPN the Magazine All-American national team.
Hoch said he'll return to Carroll next year to earn his degree. While his college eligibility will be over, he'll still find a way to play some basketball somewhere.
"I want to get my degree to teach physical education in high school," Hoch said. "But I'll keep playing basketball. I love the game. It's been a lot of fun. And this experience at Carroll couldn't have been better."
Carroll University feels the same way.
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