Q&A: Men’s basketball guard Ben Hoener

From top to bottom: Senior Ben Hoener drives to the basket against Carnegie Mellon University on Feb. 1; Hoener passes around a defender against Case Western Reserve University on Feb. 3. Hoener is averaging 9.1 points per game on the season.

Scoring a career high of 25 points off the bench on 8-of-12 shooting, Washington University men’s basketball senior Ben Hoener played a huge role in the Bears’ 76-60 win over Brandeis University on Sunday. With Senior Day coming up on Saturday afternoon against the University of Chicago at the Athletic Complex, Hoener was kind enough to answer a few questions for Student Life.

Student Life: What do you think was working for you on Sunday at Brandeis?

Ben Hoener: Well, it’s a very team-oriented offense, so a lot of times when one player does well, everybody makes their passes and finds the open guy. I was just fortunate enough to get open on a couple of plays and knocked down some shots, but it’s really very much a team offense, and once I get going, it’s usually the result of more than one player.

SL: As you head into this final weekend, what are your thoughts on how this season’s gone as a whole?

BH: I think that it’s been a pretty successful season. I think that you can see our team chemistry on and off the court. It’s really strong. As far as our record shows, we’ve lost a couple of games, but we play in a really tough conference, and any time you can go into the last weekend of the season and compete for a conference title, that’s a pretty successful conference stretch run.

SL: With you taking on that role as one of the team’s captains, what added responsibilities have you had this year?

BH: Being one of the older players, I think that one of your biggest roles—not even necessarily as a captain, but for all of the older guys—is helping the younger guys learn as fast as possible. We run complex offensive patterns. It took me a while to get adjusted to it, and there’s definitely an adjustment period. All of the older guys do a really good job of helping the younger guys adjust to the college system.

SL: You’ve transitioned, sort of full time, to that sixth man role off the bench [after starting in 2010-11 and parts of 2011-12]. What do you think about how you’ve done in that spot?

BH: I really enjoy coming off the bench, kind of shaking things up in the game. I’m going to play whatever role the coach asks me to play. I just want the team to play well. I think that a lot of the guys on the bench, they’ve bought in, and we like to talk to each other on the bench, and after the game gets into a bit of a lull in the first few minutes, it’s really fun for us to get really fired up, to come in and provide a spark.

SL: When you came in as a freshman, you were around those guys who had won two national titles [in 2008 and 2009]. When we talked to Coach Mark Edwards this past weekend, he said that your having been around those guys has kind of made you hungrier to get out there and win, and he said he’s seen that in your play this year. Do you think that’s an accurate assessment of where you are in your senior year, knowing that you’ve only got somewhere between one and seven games left?

BH: I think if you talk to anybody on the team, they’ll tell you that one of the reasons they came to Wash. U. is to compete for a national championship. I know this is going to be my last season, my last shot, and we haven’t got it done so far in our first three years. I know this is the last chance to try and get a ring, and I think that everyone recognizes that we’ve got a good team, and if everything comes together, we have a chance to make a run in the postseason. I’ve done everything I could this postseason to stay focused and try and prepare to be successful as best as I could because I know that this will be the last time I play basketball at this kind of level.

SL: Last time around [on Jan. 5 in a 68-60 loss to Chicago], Chicago did a good job of limiting you guys to some not-great chances there. What was going on? They’re a tough rival and you know they’re going to play you well, but what, tactically, do you think they were doing to limit you there?

BH: They tried to really limit our shots at the basket, and we as a team had a bit of an off day. It was a good adjustment for them and kind of a bad game for us, and we’re going to make some adjustments for this game and hopefully play a little better. I think that we don’t need to do anything drastic, we just need to come in focused. They’re a good team, too, and everyone in the conference, good record or bad, any day, [can win]. We’ve just got to try and stay focused. We’re not really worried about what it means for the tournament and for the postseason, and I think that if we get a good week of practice, I think we’ll have a good chance to bring home a win.

SL: Since Senior Day is this weekend, talk a bit about what it’s meant for you to be a part of the class of 2013 with [the team’s other two seniors] Rob Burnett and Max Needle for the past four years.

BH: It’s going to be really weird. I’ve hung out with these guys for the last four years, and it’s going to be our last game together here, and I think we’ve all been through a lot. You go through the times we’ve played well, times we’ve played poorly, we’ve all had some different roles on the team. As young guys, we were trying to learn from the older guys, and now as seniors we’re captains, trying to give all that information back. I don’t know. I don’t think it’s really going to hit home until I walk off that court for the last time, sit in that locker room for the last time. I’m not sure how I feel about it right now.

SL: You’ve been a part of two teams that have been in the tournament. What kind of adjustments do you see happening in mentality, in practice, in planning, and everything, heading into this final weekend as you know the tournament might be on the horizon?

BH: I’d like to say we practice hard all year, so you wouldn’t have to change anything, but I think that guys do know and that there’ll be a little extra energy in practice. I think we’re all going to be pretty motivated going into the game on Saturday. I think we’re going to have a couple of real competitive practices, everybody’s going to be real fired up and hopefully that comes out on the floor on Saturday.

The men’s basketball team will face Chicago on Saturday at the Athletic Complex at 3 p.m. Senior Day ceremonies will take place before the game begins.

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