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VETERAN Bendigo basketballer Chris Hogan views his 400th game milestone as a reflection on those who make his decision to keep returning each season an easy one by making the Braves a great place to be.
The humble co-captain will become only the fifth player in league history to reach the milestone when the Braves travel to Mount Gambier this Friday for a showdown against the defending national champion Pioneers.
He joins Eric Hayes (Ballarat), Grant Dennis (Frankston), DJ Taylor (Kilsyth) and Nick Payne (Albury-Wodonga/Knox) as members of an exclusive club to reach 400 SEABL games.
As he has continued to do throughout his decorated Braves career, which started in 2002, it was team and club first for Hogan on Tuesday when he was quizzed about his achievement.
“I know it’s very clichéd, but games records don’t really matter to me,” said Hogan, who flirted with taking 12-months off basketball at the end of the 2017 season.
“Finishing how we did last year (missing finals) was disappointing on a number of levels, in terms of my own performance and the teams.
“In conversations with (coach) Ben (Harvey) about the team he’s put together and his plan this year – as well as some negotiations with my wife – there was enough motivation to get me playing again.
“I think I can again contribute and leave this year on a high.
“Four hundred games are nice, but I think it’s more a testament to the character of people that have been around the club that make it such a great place to be and great place to spend time.
“(The milestone) is really my way of saying thank you to the teammates, the coaches, administrators and volunteers that have contributed to it.”
Hogan nominated Braves legend David Flint, who gave him his first shot at a pre-season with the club, and fellow coaches Wayne Larkins and Ben Harvey as those who had helped his career the most.
The 35-year-old reserved special praise for his wife Kym and daughter Grace for their continued and unwavering support.
He regarded having Grace now attending games, getting to play alongside younger brother David, and more than 200 games played with good mate Warren Randall as some of his most cherished moments in the game, together with a pair of national championships in 2005 and 16.
Hogan was happy for the importance of another big game against Mount Gambier to deflect attention from his personal milestone.
Between them the Pioneers in 2014, 15 and 17 and Braves in 2016 have won the past four national championships.
The Braves have not beaten the Pioneers in Mount Gambier since 2013.
However, the undoubted highlight of a disappointing 2017 season for the Braves, which ended short of finals, was their 92-71 win over the eventual champions in May.
The irony of his milestone coming against an opponent he has shared the floor with in so many big matches is not lost on Hogan.
“It’s a tough place to play, but for them it creates a very Mount Gambier atmosphere and that’s the great thing about our league, there’s still a lot of character around,” he said.
“You go to Mount Gambier and you play in a place that is old, that is cold and the roof is low, but their fans love it and it makes the atmosphere, so if you go in there and win it makes it that bit more sweeter.
“Given Mount Gambier were champions last year, I’d like to think we could go there and win.”
Hogan is no stranger to big game occasions.
His 300th game was played in a conference grand final in 2013, while his 350th was celebrated in a preliminary final in 2015.
He will head to South Australia in great form following a 16-point game, highlighted by a quartet of three-pointers, in last Saturday’s 92-88 win against Hobart Chargers.
The Braves’ games record holder averages 7.6 points and 3.5 rebounds across his career.
His 25 finals appearances rank as the fifth-highest all-time.
Harvey, who played alongside Hogan in his first national championship win and was coach of the 2016 title win, praised Hogan’s outstanding selfless leadership and his determination and drive.
“He played all his junior basketball with the Braves and is just a great role model for our kids,” he said.
“He’s put in so much hard work over so long and I am so glad he is playing this year because I think he is such a big part of what we are as a club.
“He showed that again on Saturday night, he had 16 points and hit some big shots.
“Guys like Ray Turner, Jeremy Kendle and Indiana Faithfull get a lot of attention for us, but you can’t forget Chris Hogan.
“I am so happy for him and his family to get this milestone – and what a place to play in Mount Gambier, a team we have had a great rivalry with.”
Harvey hoped Bendigo fans would take advantage of a chance to show their appreciation to Hogan when the Braves host Albury-Wodonga Bandits on Sunday at Bendigo Stadium.
A Bendigo Lady Braves leader and star Kelly Wilson said she was fortunate to see another side to Hogan in their respective roles with Bendigo South East College’s Athlete Development Program
“Everyone in the Bendigo basketball community speaks very highly of Hoges, but I see him in a sense of youth development and in the school community and he is amazing,” he said.
“He has a real passion for youth basketball in Bendigo.
“His 400-games is an achievement he is probably not thinking about too much now right now, but is something that when he finishes his basketball career he’ll look back and be extremely proud with what he’s achieved.
“It’s also a testament to his dedication and loyalty to the Bendigo Braves club.”
Depending on finals, Hogan could end the season as high as third on the all-times games played list.
Hayes holds the record with 486 games, followed by Dennis (425), Taylor (418) and Payne (401).