NEW YORK — Dustin Hogue couldn’t hold it back. A wide smile crossed his face as he glanced out through the tunnel and saw for the first time what he had always dreamed of.
As he took each subsequent step toward the court for Iowa State’s practice, Hogue spread his arms to take it in. He stood at mid-court, his arms apart and looked around at Madison Square Garden, the place he’d always wanted to be.
“To actually have this opportunity is kind of crazy to me,” Hogue said. “Everybody wants to play in the Garden, and to actually have the chance to come back and play here … I never thought I actually would be here in the Garden playing.”
Hogue grew up in Yonkers, N.Y. as a New York Knicks fan. He would watch games on television with family and friends and he would dream. Maybe, he thought, one day he could play at The World’s Most Famous Arena.
From time to time, Hogue and his childhood friends would make the 30-minute or so commute into Manhattan. They would walk past Madison Square Garden and look up at the structure in wonder.
“One day,” Hogue would say, “we’re going to get there.”
Yet Hogue never went. He wanted to catch a Knicks game, but the opportunity never presented itself. When the Cyclones were put into the East Regional of the NCAA tournament this season as a No. 3 seed, the opportunity was open.
Iowa State pushed past North Carolina Central in the second round in San Antonio, moving to being one game away from the Sweet 16 and New York City. Hogue received a handful of text messages seeking tickets if the Cyclones advanced.
As Hogue and assistant coach Matt Abdelmassih, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., hugged after a two-point victory against North Carolina just more than a day later, he said in Hogue’s ear, “We’re going home.”
The Cyclones were in the Sweet 16 for the fourth time in school history, and Hogue’s phone began to buzz in the locker room. The text message count seeking tickets reached 155.
“I’m not going to be able to get everybody tickets,” said Hogue, who has bargained with teammates to increase his 15-ticket allotment. “It’s going to be a tough draft pick for these tickets.”
Hogue, a 6-foot-6 forward transfer from Indian Hills Community College, burst onto the scene in his first season at Iowa State. He started from Day 1 and finished the regular season tied for second in rebounding in the Big 12.
Throughout his first season, Hogue has become Iowa State’s physical presence, falling to the ground and grabbing rebounds while averaging 10.9 points and 8.5 rebounds per game entering the Sweet 16.
His toughness on the court, he says, stems from New York, where he played at local YMCAs and the famous Rucker Park while growing up.
“It’s always tough basketball,” Hogue said. “I’m the energetic guy on the court now, but growing up there were hundreds of me everywhere.”
Only one will play in the Sweet 16 on Friday night.
“It’s going to be an emotional night I’m sure when his name is called on these loud speakers,” said Abdelmassih, who has been to the Garden hundreds of times. “Because these are the most famous loud speakers in the world.”
When the buzzer sounded to end Iowa State’s practice and the court cleared, Hogue posed for a photo under the hoop. He picked up a ball and dunked one final time.
As he walked back toward the tunnel, his smile was still there. Finally, just as he told his friends many years ago, Hogue had made it to Madison Square Garden.
“It’s beautiful, man,” Hogue said. “My shot is money. It’s the home court advantage or something.”