Courier Staff Writer
These days, folks in southern Iowa are pretty unanimous in their positive response to the play of Dustin Hogue and Richard Amardi.
Next year, that approval rating may go down 50 percent.
This year, Hogue and Armadi have played well as first-time teammates at Indian Hills with every Warrior fan cheering along. The sophomores will continue that new partnership for at least two more years as both have will stay in state and join the Iowa State Cyclones next season.
And just like that, the two newcomers to the state will be right in the middle of the vaunted “Cy-Hawk” rivalry.
“I’ve been getting a lot of love lately, but some of our fans have asked me why I didn’t choose Iowa,” Hogue joked. “I really feel like I made the right choice going to Iowa State.
“Hopefully, those Hawkeye fans around here will understand.”
Both Hogue and Amardi, who each played significant roles in leading IHCC to a 14-1 record at the holiday break with a No. 11 national ranking, will don ISU cardinal and gold next season.
Cyclone head coach Fred Hoiberg signed the IHCC duo, giving both players an opportunity to call Iowa home for two more years.
“It doesn’t surprise when a guy like Dustin or a guy like Richard chooses to stay real close by and choose a place like Iowa State,” Peery said. “They’ve seen the passion that is there and I think Coach Hoiberg did a fantastic job with those guys.”
“Iowa’s kind of grown on me,” Hogue added. “The fact is this is a good family out here when we play our games here in Ottumwa. The fans show us great support.”
For Amardi, getting the chance to play with the Cyclones is a blessing for a player that came to IHCC looking to clear up an uncertain future. The 6-8 forward from Scarborough, Ontario, Canada, who is averaging 6.6 points, 4.4 rebounds is thrilled to be heading to Ames.
“If someone had told me at this time last year I’d be going to Iowa State, I probably wouldn’t have believed them,” Amardi said. “My game’s changed a lot already since I’ve come here.”
An emotional Amardi talked about the biggest change to his game since coming to the Warriors. It’s a change not just in his game on the court, but in a simple philosophy off it.
“Coach Peery has taught me how to play at 100 percent and not to quit,” Amardi said. “That’s been my biggest problem. When things don’t go right for me on the basketball court, I kind of just get into myself. I’ve seen how that affects us. Because of that, I try to keep moving forward.
“I’ve seen how not giving up has affected this team positively. I just keep pressing forward and keep playing hard no matter the situation.”
Hogue can relate in some aspects to where Amardi is coming from. Well established now in his second year at Indian Hills, Hogue found himself in times of uncertainty before even coming to the Warriors.
“I remember being at a jamboree and talking to Coach Peery,” Hogue said. “He and I had an interesting talk. He told me it’s not about the size of the school, it’s about the style that best fits you.”
But even after finding the right school with the right style at IHCC, it took Hogue some time during his first year to begin to find his place within the program. Hard work led to a strong finish to the freshman season for Hogue left him averaging 10.6 points and 5.7 rebounds while playing significant minutes on the Warriors run to the national tournament.
“I’m very competitive, so it wasn’t about beating out other players for playing time. It was about figuring out how I could be a better player,” Hogue said. “We had a lot of meetings last year trying and a lot of discussions with Coach Peery about what I needed to do.
“As he helped coach me, I figured out how to be the type of player that could make out team better.”
Peery talked about the second-year sophomore’s growth as a leader, which has continued this season as Hogue is one of six players to average double figures with 11.8 points in the first 15 games of the season.
“I think it takes time for freshmen to get used to how you do things and how things work off the court,” Peery said. “Dustin had to go through that process just as all our returning freshman did. We’ve got a group that’s really mature and really responsible about handling their business on and off the court.”
For both Hogue and Amardi, coming to Indian Hills represented a major culture change. The Canadian Amardi and Hogue, a Yonkers, New York native, have found their new home state and its surroundings to be a very positive influence.
“I would have never thought I would have been in Iowa at all,” Hogue said. “This is the complete opposite of New York. I can’t even go down the road without seeing deer take it over.”
“Everything’s a little different for me. That’s what makes it interesting. It’s so much more relaxed and it makes it easy to focus on basketball.”
And both players are looking forward to spending two more years together as teammates at an Iowa school.
“I’m really happy to be part of something like this here at Indian Hills,” Amardi said. “It’s a brotherhood. That’s what we tell each other every day in the locker room. Being a part of this team, I don’t feel like there’s nothing I can’t do.”