COLUMBIA — When Brett Hoskins came to Columbia College, he was used to being one of the go-to guys on the basketball court at West Kentucky Community College.
That was before he played for the Cougars and had third-team All-American Trae Hall as a teammate.
2009 NAIA National Tournament
Columbia College ( 26-7 )
vs. Lee University ( 26-7)
WHEN: 2:15 p.m
WHERE: Municipal Auditorium, Kansas City
“It was frustrating, going from playing a lot to sitting on the bench,” Cougars' senior guard Hoskins said about last season. “But I knew coming to a new school it would be like that. Especially, with him in front of me.”
Minutes were scarce for Hoskins because Hall started ahead of him. Hall led the Cougars in scoring last season at nearly 15 points per game and was the only Cougar who averaged double figures.
“He adjusted well,” Columbia College coach Bob Burchard said of Hoskins accepting a new role last season.
This season, Hoskins has returned to what he is used to — starting and scoring. Hoskins is third on the team with 11.7 points per game. His play was influential in the Cougars winning the American Midwest Conference tournament, which earned them a trip to the NAIA national tournament. The Cougars play Lee University in the first round at 2:15 p.m. Thursday at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City.
With Hall graduating, Hoskins has taken on a more prominent role for the Cougars. However, Hall leaving isn’t the only reason Hoskins has improved his play this season. Coach and player agree he is in much better shape than he was last season.
“The summer before my first year here, I worked a lot. I didn’t have much time,” Hoskins said about his summer job back home in Kentucky. “This past summer, I made sure I worked out and shot a lot.”
Extra conditioning and more time in the gym has paid off for Hoskins.
“He came into this year with a much higher level of fitness,” Burchard said. “I think he’s done exactly what a coach would hope. He’s had a steady progression since he came here.”
Despite having limited playing time last season, Hoskins attitude never wavered. Complaining wasn’t something Hoskins was about to do.
“I don’t think his attitude ever changed,” Cougars senior Joe Flanner said. “He continued to work hard every day. Now that he’s got his opportunity he’s shown that he deserves to be out there.”
The pressure of the postseason has not seemed to bother Hoskins, who has averaged more than 14 points per game. His demeanor during games is usually relaxed, until he darts to the basket for one of his patented drives.
“Brett finds a way to get to the basket,” Burchard said. “He’s always got this calmness about him. He doesn’t get rattled easy. He’s always level-headed.”
Burchard hopes Hoskins’ calm attitude rubs off on his teammates at the national tournament. Being able to stay calm once things get tight will be important for the Cougars. That could be the difference from moving deep into the National Tournament, and making an early exit.
“Right now, we’re focusing on things we did well in the (AMC) tournament,” Burchard said. “We’re playing our best basketball of the year, especially offensively.”
The Cougars arrived in Kansas City on Monday night, had a banquet on Tuesday night, practiced Tuesday and Wednesday, met with children at the Champion of Characters camp, and watched the start of the tournament on Wednesday.
The Cougars said they are confident the busy schedule will not distract them from their ultimate goal of winning a national championship. After Winning 13 of their past 14 games, the Cougars do not plan on changing much in Kansas City.
“We going to keep doing what were doing,” Hoskins said. “We’re a pretty good team right now.”