Dolomiti Energia Trento is back in the EuroCup and so is Dustin Hogue, who already did really well in the competition last season, averaging 12.4 points and 5.2 rebounds in eight games. Hogue played at Iowa State University and started his professional career in Europe right away. After Nea Kifisia in Greece, he joined Trento first for the 2016-17 season. Hogue moved on to play for Turkish side Pinar Karsiyaka Izmir but immediately returned to Trento and has been there ever since. An undersized big man full of power and intensity, Hogue blogs about his experiences and his team this season.
We had a rough couple of games early in the 7DAYS EuroCup season and that led to a really tough time finding our identity. Coming into the season, you have guys coming back and you have new guys on the team. It is really hard to identify what team you are going to be and it kind of showed when we weren't able to hold on against other teams. But we have been practicing hard the last couple of weeks, Coach has been talking to us a lot, and we're really coming together as a team, as a brotherhood. We kind of showed that we can beat these teams and even when it is going to be hard, we have a chance to make it to the next round.
Our game against ASVEL was a do-or-die one and we survived. We always had it in us, but just needed to make those plays late in the game. Nobody classifies Diego Flaccadori as an offensive rebounder but he got a huge one at the end of that game. He is the type of guy that will give 100% on the court, and that is exactly the type of thing that we need to win games. If we had shown that same kind of intensity in the first part of the season, who knows where we would be? We have it now and have to keep our momentum going. The EuroCup is a tough competition and our group is really tough. You cannot really take a night off. You have to come and give your best in every game. We were playing against teams that could possibly win the championship. It is a good experience for us that we understand already in the first round what type of game we need to be playing.
"We're really coming together as a team, as a brotherhood."
This is my second season in Trento and I have noticed that some of our other players came back to the team after a while, too. For some reasons, players keep coming back to Trento. This has always been a good team, a good organization, with great management and a great coaching staff. It is something unique. The fans love you and I really like it here: the hard-nosed defense, the tough plays. We do things that other teams really don't take too much pride, and that's guarding the ball and playing as a family. Every player wants to come back to that type of environment, and that is the kind of thing Trento provides. When I first came here, I didn't know what type of coach Maurizio Buscaglia was, and everybody told me he was a very particular coach. I never met a coach like him before; he tries to play chess with his game plans while other teams play checkers. He has different strategies to use in different situations and when you have a team so well-coached, you have good chances to win games. It is up to the players to finish it out.
One of the players that came back was Davide Pascolo. He started the season injured and now that he is back, we are definitely more competitive. He came back and is growing with the team now, stepping up and doing things that he was doing before he left. He has a lot of experience and that is helping us out right now, especially when we are trying to make a run to come back to the EuroCup race. Everybody asks him about his shooting release. I don't know! Sometimes in practice we try to copy his shot and it is impossible. I think he is the only guy on the planet that shoots like that. We have to try to make him shoot a traditional, elbow-straight jump shot, not over the head, a regular one, and see what happens! Just kidding, the truth is he has worked on his shot a lot and is really effective. When I see him play, I definitely see his game as unorthodox. He is the type of guy that will keep you on your toes. I remember my first practice with him: I was playing defense on him and I was so lost! I didn't know when he was shooting the ball and where it was released from. It is a tough matchup because it is really difficult to block his shot, and he takes advantage of that.
We signed Aaron Craft and he is going to help us a lot. As a floor general, he comes out and orchestrates everything. He is like an on-the-court coach, telling us where to go and what to do. Defensively, he is the key to everything we are trying to do. Watching him go after the ball and be in a guy's space, it just makes everyone else understand that we need to match his intensity. He has been a good leader for us offensively and defensively, and it shows.
"No more confusion, no more identity crisis: We just have to play to the best of our abilities."
Our next game is against Zenit in St. Petersburg, Russia, right before the EuroCup takes a break. Coming into the game, we have everything to lose, because we are playing against good, dangerous team like Zenit. They played a great game in our place earlier on this season. It is not going to be an easy game but if we come out with the same aggressiveness that we have been showing recently, we will have a good chance to beat them. We know how hard it is going to be and that is going to make us come into the game more ready. If we play with the same aggressiveness and the same defensive capacity, we will be able to pull one out. After that, we will have two weeks to prepare the game against Turk Telekom. Every game and every team in this league is tough and right now, we have to prepare for the game against Zenit. We understand what we need to do now. No more confusion, no more identity crisis: We just have to play to the best of our abilities.
Everyone has to understand that is win or go home for us. We cannot think of winning two out of three or what happens if we lose this one. We have to win this one or we are done. If we go into the game with that mentality, giving 100 percent, all five guys on the court, like hungry dogs looking for a win, then I think that is the key. There is no second chance. We lost that second chance in the first games. Our second chance is now and we have to make the most of it.