Throughout his grind to be the best, Ty Hoglund made sure to remind himself why he plays basketball.
Like in early morning weightlifting sessions, or late-night shootarounds, or on the bus traveling to the next matchup, or on a summer evening when he was at the gym while his friends were out being teenagers.
“It’s called the game of basketball for a reason. It’s not a job for me,” Hoglund said. “It’s a game and I’ve enjoyed every single bit of it.”
Hoglund was the Quarriers’ engine, averaging in a banner season 26.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 3.1 steals per contest. The 6-foot-3 point guard knocked in 52 three-pointers and still finished above 50 percent shooting from the field, and few were as dangerous putting the ball on the floor and attacking the basket. His miss-me-if-you-blink style culminated in 142 attempts from the free-throw line, and Hoglund cashed in 82 percent of the time.
“Ty Hoglund is the best player in South Dakota,” said Coach Jason Fersdahl. “He’s an all-around player. Handles the ball, shoots the ball and his basketball IQ is sky-high.”
Others around the state fit similar descriptions of skill, but Hoglund — this year’s Argus Leader First Five Player of the Year — stood tallest.
Hoglund’s emphatic season stacks up like a highlight reel of greatest hits. Who can forget his game-winner against Dak-XII rival Madison in the Region 3A tournament?
Dell Rapids trailed Madison 53-46 with 1:17 left in the game, when Hoglund found teammate Mason Schmidt in the corner for a three. Hoglund ripped away the inbound pass, finished with layup, and suddenly the margin was cut to 53-51. Moments later, Mason Peters came up with another steal and his quick dish to Sam White set up the tying score. White’s defense at the other end gave Dell Rapids the ball back, in Hoglund’s hands, with 18 seconds left.
Hoglund calmly made his way to midcourt, clock ticking, and looked to Fersdahl on the sideline for direction.
“He gave me the signal to go ISO with it, and it shot my confidence way up,” Hoglund said. “I remembered listening to Steph Curry talk about the 40-footer he made to beat OKC, and one of the things he said was it was the most open shot he was going to get.
“I kind of knew then that I was going to pull up and shoot,” Hoglund said.
The point guard uncorked a three-pointer several feet back from the top of the key.
“He has a kind of confidence about him that is contagious,” said father Mick Hoglund, an assistant coach with the Quarriers. “He’s not really afraid of situations, and win or lose, he knows that it’s going to be fun to be in the middle of the battle.”
Hoglund never stopped having fun, like in his aforementioned Region 3A dagger against the rival Bulldogs, or in the nine games where he exceeded 30 points. When Hoglund started the season with 36 points in a win over West Central only to follow with 44 points, seven steals, five rebounds and five assists against Tea Area a week later, Fersdahl knew his star guard had taken a step forward from what was an impressive all-state junior campaign.
“I remember in our postseason evaluation after his junior season, really the challenge to him was to be a totally unguardable player,” Fersdahl said. “Everyone knew him as a shooter, but this season he’s been able to put it on the floor and finish with his left and right hand and he’s added a post-up game on offense.”
Along the way, Hoglund set school records for career points (1,600), points in a season (604), points in a game (44), career three-pointers (160) and steals (199).
By the stretch run of the season, Hoglund’s reputation for delivering in the clutch preceded him. A game’s big moment would come, and there would be Hoglund with the ball in his hands at the top of the key, totally in his element. You know how the rest goes.
“He has that confidence because he’s put in countless hours in the gym. He’s a tireless worker — the ultimate gym rat,” Fersdahl said. “He’s in the gym when it’s half-lit and no one’s around, for hours on end, and he’s been doing that since he was a little kid.”
Hoglund’s confidence is an article of faith born out of preparation, but also trust. While he’s clearly the team’s go-to scorer — teammate Sheldon Siemonsma was the only other Quarrier to average double-figures — he also finished with thrice as many assists as the next best guy.
“I think he has that ability to make the guys that he’s playing with a little bit better,” Mick Hoglund said, “and he gets just as much of a kick out of seeing his teammates do well as when he does well himself.”
Hoglund isn’t a scorer or a distributor, he’s both. His cool confidence is productive, not overweening. When his screams are loudest, it’s often to praise a teammate. The gestures extend to even his biggest rivals.
When rival Sioux Falls Christian capped its impressive run with the program’s first state championship, Hoglund took to social media for congratulations.
Congrats to my dudes on a great year with a state championship. Big time win tonight. Way to represent Region 3. pic.twitter.com/x22Mls0Es1— Ty Hoglund (@Ty_Hoglund) March 20, 2016
“Congrats to my dudes on a great year with a state championship. Big time win tonight. Way to represent Region 3,” Hoglund wrote in a tweet with an attached picture and SFC’s Lincoln Unruh, Chad Barkema and Keegan Van Egdom all tagged.
“Not every part of my career has ben roses, but going out there every night is a privilege,” Hoglund said. “I played to the best of my ability and tried to set an example for the young kids coming up.”