Max Hoetzel’s high school coach on his development, game and future

  • 04/24/2014 3:47 pm in

Chris Sparks of Wilbraham and Monson Academy in Massachusetts was one of the coaches at last week’s Derby Festival Basketball Classic in Louisville and also the high school coach this past season for class of 2014 signee Max Hoetzel.

Upon his arrival at Wilbraham and Monson last fall from Calabasas (Calif.), Hoetzel saw his recruitment take off, which ultimately culminated in a commitment to Indiana in late October of last year.

Inside the Hall recently caught up with Sparks for an in-depth conversation on Hoetzel and we discussed his growth since arriving at Wilbraham and Monson, his role at the next level and much more.

Here’s a complete transcript of our conversation with Sparks:

Inside the Hall: I was just talking to Max about where he was a year ago and where he is now and his rise. You’ve had him since last fall, can you talk about how he’s gotten better and where he is as a player right now?

Chris Sparks: He’s made significant progress for us. And I think that’s one of the things with the league that we play in. Every team that we play is going to have kids that are going to compete at the Division I, high major, mid-major, low major level. I think it was a good test for him night in and night out and I think it was a big adjustment early on. The pace, the speed of the game and the size and strength of some of the guys compared to where he came from. Not to take anything away from his local high school, but I think midway through the year, he started to get it. He made significant strides, was a huge contributor for us and really led to our success in the league. We had some great success this year and he had some huge games for us on both ends, offensively and defensively. He really changed his game a lot. The catch-and-shoot, one dribble pull-up he was very effective at, he was able to get to the bucket, get to the free throw line. One of the things I think he does really well is: He’s going to get to the free throw line a ton. He has a good ability to get into the lane and get to the free throw line. He’s an 80-plus percent free throw shooter, so that really helps him.

ITH: His recruitment kind of came out of nowhere last fall. A year ago at this time, I wouldn’t have known who he was and then all of the sudden, Indiana offers him and he commits to Indiana. Once he got to you, how did things progress?

CS: Initially, it was Utah, San Diego and a bunch of schools out west, Washington State, that were recruiting him. I think what happened was the team, and the fortunate thing we have is, as many good players as we have on the team, coach (Tom) Crean was recruiting Goodluck (Okonoboh) and he saw this kid and said, ‘wow, this kid can really shoot it.’ And he was able to get a decent evaluation off of that because of the kids he was competing against in practice. And then he came back again and saw him again and his recruiting started to pick up at that point with some different people coming in whether it was UConn. Florida was another school, coach (Billy) Donovan had been up. I give coach Crean and coach (Kenny) Johnson a lot of credit because he kind of saw him first because he kind of identified him and saw that this kid could really be something eventually and play at that level. I think he’s going to do really well there and like I said, by the midpoint of our year, people started to think, this kid is going to be a good player at Indiana.

ITH: The first time Crean watched him, Max said you got him out of his dorm and he did some shooting?

CS: He’d worked out for a hour or a hour and 15 minutes and coach Crean got stuck with his flight. I ended up pulling him out of that and then he worked out for another hour for coach. My opinion, being around coach Crean, he recruited Goodluck and he did a really great job with Goodluck and then the experience with Max, I think he’s done a terrific job in his evaluations. Just look some of the kids he’s had through the program whether it’s been Victor (Oladipo) or other kids. He’s had some high profile kids, but he’s also had kids that not a lot of people know about and aren’t the ranked guys. He kind of sees what they’re going to be to play in his program.

ITH: What does he need to work on the most between now and his freshman season to get where he needs to be and play right away and contribute?

CS: My goal really is to shorten the gap as much as I possibly can, but there is going to be a gap. I think his strength is something that’s going to have to be improved upon. His strength and stamina because obviously, the Big Ten and the pressure and demands that coach is going to have on him. I think defensively, he’s going to have to continue to get better. And I think just his in-between game. I think everybody has him labeled as a very good shooter, a catch-and-shoot guy, but like I said, he’s been trying to stretch his game out a little more, become a little more dynamic at getting into the lane and some of those things. As that comes and I’m sure those guys will have a lot more time and resources than I do to help him get better.

ITH: Do you think he’ll be a small forward?

CS: That’s the great thing about him, I mean he can guard multiple positions, he has to continue to improve on that, but then he can also, on the offensive end, he can play in the post, play outside. He’s got a high enough basketball IQ to do some of those things.

ITH: How is he with rebounding?

CS: He rebounds well enough right now. Obviously, I’d like him to rebound a little bit better and I think coach Crean is going to want him to, too. But he’ll be a freshman in college. Coming from high school is a big difference. Once he gets stronger, that will change his mentality.

ITH: How is Max with the turnovers consider the turnover problems Indiana had this past season?

CS: Very rarely did he turn the ball over. His IQ gets him through. He never was careless with the ball. He puts himself in positions where he’s going to make himself and his team better. He allows himself to be pressured sometimes against smaller guards, but I think as he gets stronger, he’ll be able to use his physicality.

ITH: He mentioned Steve Novak and Will Sheehey as two guys he’s trying to pattern himself after. Those are pretty high aspirations. Do you see either of those guys in him a little bit?

CS: Sure, I know everyone wants a baseline to compare him to, but he’s different than both guys. He’s got a unique brand of himself. He does a lot with the ball sometimes, he has enough shiftiness with it. I’d just like to see him get a little stronger and then we’ll see where he’s at in a year or two. But you start throwing out Novak and Sheehey, I’ve got a lot of respect for both of those guys.

ITH: Confidence wise, he seems like he’s got it. He’s like the only guy here (at the Derby Festival Basketball Classic) that wasn’t a highly rated recruit, but he looks like he feels like he belongs.

CS: Yeah, I think that’s what is going to happen at Indiana, too. The rankings to me, the kid is from Calabasas, California. He’s playing against Beverly Hills High School and other schools last year. Now he’s playing against Brewster and St. Thomas More and all of these kids going high major. He’s had success against those guys. We played against New Hampton this year, they’re loaded. They’ve got six guys going Division I and he drops 25 points and looked great doing it. I think that helped him build his confidence.

Filed to:

  • Rie


  • CreamandCrimson

    As much as I dislike ole Denim Shirt, he has a good basketball mind and by all accounts, was a good NBA assistant.

    No need to apologize for the rant, I like reading smart basketball stuff and it’s clear you know what you are talking about. Weird rotations and subbing? I don’t think any IU fans know of that concept haha (he says with a smirk).

  • CreamandCrimson

    You win!

  • Outoftheloop

    If the starting 5 is: Yogi, Troy, Hanner, James, and Devin; then Stan backs up Yogi, Robert backs up James, Jefferson backs up Hanner, and Max backs up Troy. That makes 9, assuming that Peter and Collin are not medically able to play yet. If Peter can play he moves ahead of Jefferson but both get minutes. If Collin can play he backs up Devin. That is our current 11 man roster. With 2 more scholarships to offer, that could easily change. However, Coach Crean likes many different combinations (just never 2 Bigs together for no good reason!). So I imagine we will see Yogi, James, Robert and Max with 1 Big for some real minutes in some games.

  • Outoftheloop

    I see some Sheehey comparisons: 1) unheralded recruit, 2) cocky/confident demeanor, 3) eager to work and to learn, 4) not interested in sitting but in playing now, 5) more athletic than expected. But there are just as many differences in their games: 1) height, 2) shooting ability, 3) ball handling and driving ability, 4) jumping ability, etc.

  • Outoftheloop

    Max is a much better shooter!

  • Hoosier Hall


  • Rie

    Honestly, the similarities on offense between Houston and IU are numerous. Both run-and-gun/transition style, predicated on spacing, floor-stretching, driving and threes. Trouble in the half court with a stagnant ball, but great in transition. Midrange shots mostly discouraged. Obnoxiously high, and stupid, turnovers. Harden ISO – Yogi ISO, sometimes leading to contested and thrown up threes, often very early in the shot clock. Not to mention, a small forward holding down the four spot. I am not against these things, but it is troubling to see similar issues arise as a result of this style. It just does not seem to be a good formula in the playoffs/tournament, as teams play much more enthusiastic defense and refs (inconsistently) allow more contact on players driving the lane.

  • Outoftheloop

    He has not proved it yet, but he has all of the tools that Hayward had: a little less in ball handling, a little more in shooting.

  • ForeverIU

    He means Jeremiah April lol maybe a smort phane thingy

  • Hoosier Hall

    Oh, got it. Thanks! Yeah, I really hope that guy can contribute right away. We’re gonna need it.

  • Hoosier gal in Iowa

    We split with Illinois last year. Lost there, won at home.

  • Outoftheloop

    Thanks, “Jeremiah”. But TJ’s home is really sweet in April.

  • CreamandCrimson

    I don’t blame you but you seem to have washed the Big Ten Tournament loss from your memory.

  • Hoosier gal in Iowa

    Yes I sort of tried to forget. I guess I consider the Tourney ‘Post’ season, not regular season! Splitting hairs I suppose. 🙂

  • KmanCRK

    again, not much for actual basketball comparisons. I think people just often look for comparisons to help get them excited about who a player is going to be. In this case, I just think its way off base. Their games really don’t relate in any way shape or form. You could probably more easily compare his game to Hulls than Sheehey based on strengths/weaknesses if you want to focus on under recruited white kids…I’m just saying.

  • RMK

    To go along with the theme of comparisons and at risk of breaking the “can’t compare a white guy to a black guy” (or the opposite) rule, I think he’s got a lot of Watford in his game. could be a deadly set shooter, and I think he could bulk up to around Watford’s weight. I also think they are similar athletically. Just my opinion.

  • Ole Man

    Maybe. But Will was much more athletic as a freshman than Max is at this point.

  • Ole Man

    3 freshmen on the court again at the same time? Yikes!

  • Ole Man

    Amen, plane. Some on here have him parting the Red Sea and leading IU to a national title in his spare time.

  • Dee McDonald

    My biggest factor with the 3 kids (I know nothing of April and probably wouldn’t put him into this category anyways) is that they all seem to have REALLY HIGH BASKETBALL IQ’s. That was something that was constantly missing last year. Hopefully they can compensate for what troy, stan, hanner, and some others lack in basketball IQ but make up for is sheer God-given crazy talent!

  • Eugene Debs


  • ForeverIU

    smort jakes are my specialty.

  • Crimson&CremeFraiche

    I made the original comment and all I said was that he should model his game after Stauskas, you know the guy who just recently won player of the year in our conference. Not because he is white, but because he was the best player in the best league in the NCAA. Man I’m sick of 90% of our fan base.

  • Rie

    No one is/was attacking you and I did not even specifically mention anyone. Just pointing out that a large number of people automatically compare white players to previous white players. Just look around this board and/or read my post again.

    It is hilarious to me that you took this offensively.

  • Crimson&CremeFraiche

    Sorry. I was just a little frustrated. I didn’t mean the last part where I said “Man I’m sick of 90% of our fan base.” But anyways, I understand what you mean, it does happen a lot. I guess I was just mad because my comment got lumped into that category. Why I cared what anyone thought about my anonymous comment I don’t have an answer for.

  • Rie

    No problem; I certainly did not mean anything I said as judgment on anyone or their beliefs. The Donald Sterling thing recently is probably making people a lot more alert about race issues/comparisons.

    Your comment was not comparing like the rest, so I am sorry for probably not responding in the best place, but just the mention of Nik kind of opened up the door. Either way, I did like what you said about Max and Nik and hope he does, at the very least, watch some tape on him.

    I am also sick of a good portion of our fan base, but that is a whole different topic. People attacking recruits they know nothing about just because they are not ranked high? So wrong for so many reasons.

  • Crimson&CremeFraiche

    Couldn’t agree more. That’s what kills me. Why are we bashing a guy that is really excited to play for IU? I think the whole one-and-done era has everybody’s priorities confused. Four-year players win you championships. Just look at UConn last year and Lousiville two year’s ago. We just need guys to stay and improve.

  • Rie

    Exactly. Crean just needs to win and I think we will move past what transpired last season. Unfortunately, people will be rabid until we make it past the Sweet 16, without any regard for the roster or circumstances.

  • Crimson&CremeFraiche

    Exactly. Glad to see someone on the same page as me. I will keep an eye out for your comments because I know they are coming from a sensible person.