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Published: Friday, 3/14/2003

Hoogendam turns corner

BY RON MUSSELMAN
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

CLEVELAND - Karin Hoogendam's brief basketball career had reached a crossroads in December.

The University of Toledo sophomore was burned out from playing year-round, and she considered giving up the sport altogether.

“I was tired of basketball and I was going through a real slump,” she said yesterday. “I really didn't have my heart in it. I wasn't ready to play - didn't know if I wanted to keep playing - and was kind of going through the motions.

“Coach [Mark] Ehlen and I sat down and tried to figure out what was wrong, and he tried to pull me back into the game and get my heart back into it.”

Hoogendam, a 6-3 center from St. Catharines, Ont., started the Rockets' first five games before being sent to the bench.

“She was definitely underachieving,” Ehlen said. “We expected big things out of her this year, and when they weren't happening she got down on herself and started feeling sorry for herself a little bit. She just wasn't playing like she was capable of playing.”

Hoogendam's play started to pick up once Mid-American Conference action began. She averaged 11.5 points and 6.8 rebounds in 16 conference games, with a team-best 49.7 percent field-goal percentage, and was named the West Division's top player in the final week of the season.

She regained her starting job in mid-February and has been the Rockets' top scorer (14.4) and rebounder (8.6) since Tia Davis suffered her season-ending knee injury on Feb. 5 against Western Michigan.

Top-seeded Toledo (20-8) split with Western Michigan this season and will play the fourth-seeded Broncos (18-11) for the third time today at noon in the MAC Tournament semifinals at Gund Arena.

“I think there was a point in the year when the light finally went on for Karin,” Ehlen said. “I'm not sure it's anything I said or anything any of the other coaches said. I think she finally just realized, `It's time for me to start playing.'”

Associate head coach Tina Langley has played a key role in Hoogendam's turnaround.

“Coach Langley and I have worked a lot on my inside game and on trying to get me to be more physical and more aggressive,” Hoogendam said.

Hoogendam, who turned 21 in January, played soccer and volleyball while growing up in Canada, where hockey is king. She didn't start playing basketball competitively until she was in 10th grade.

She is one of two Canadian post players on UT's roster. The other is 6-0 junior forward Julie Hillis from London, Ont.

“Basketball is a totally different game here,” Hoogendam said. “It's a lot more physical and people take the game a lot more seriously. It's almost an afterthought in Canada.”

The Rockets are 8-4 with Hoogendam in the starting lineup. She is averaging 10.8 points and 8.2 rebounds as a starter.

In UT's 80-66 quarterfinal win over No. 9 seed Marshall on Wednesday, the razor-thin Hoogendam had 10 points and nine rebounds, but played just 19 minutes and fouled out with 3:39 to play.

“Karin hates to hear the word potential, but she has lots of it,” said point guard Mary Blessing, who is Hoogendam's roommate. “She's so athletic and she's only played organized basketball for five years.

“If she can bulk up, add some weight and keep working hard, she can be awesome.”



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