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.

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  • IUDan

    Great interview Alex – I’m really excited about Max … The more we get to know him, the more I like him – he’s going to be a great Hoosier

  • marcusgresham

    Funny that I got down the story and saw the reference to Sheehey, because I was thinking Hoetz is going to be the most likely person to fill his shoes. Obviously he isn’t as athletic as Will (or as good-looking, my daughter will remind me,) but he’s, by all accounts a better shooter, about the same size, able to get into the lane and pull up, and not lacking in confidence. I’m on the bandwagon.

  • SCHoosier

    Great information..thanks. Best part of it was the Coach praising Max’s b-ball IQ 3 separate times. YESSSSSSS!

  • Brad

    This was a great read. I’m looking forward to watching him develop.

  • Crimson&CremeFraiche

    He needs to watch some Nik Stauskas tapes and model his game after that. Same kind of build I believe, but the leadership skills and passing Stauskas had were unbelievable. Just a thought.

  • Caleb Moore

    I would not exactly compare him to Sheehey other than he’s white and has some confident arrogance to his game. He’s probably 2 inches taller right now than will and he’s a much better shooter than Will was coming in. Better rebounder as well. Sheehey probably more agile out there and moved better with the ball at this stage. Novak might be a better comparison from a shooting standpoint.
    Watching the Derby the kid can obviously shoot and you can see he plays with confidence out there that is typical of shooter types. But he also went after rebounds hard and used his length on the boards. The weightroom and agility training are going to be his keys. I hope he gets in there this Summer and hits it hard. Vic will be around training most of the Summer so it will be good to see what kind of work ethic it takes to get to that level.

  • Caleb Moore

    Somewhat similar from a shooting aspect. A couple inches taller, longer, not as agile right now.

  • Caleb Moore

    Also, I’m not a ranking kind of guy really, but I think it’s somewhat rediculous that a 6’8″ kid who can shoot it like he can isnt even in the top 250 nationally.

  • John D Murphy

    I’d like to use him next year as a stretch 4. Think of a scenario where JB and Max are on the outside and Yogi is driving to the hole able to dish inside to Troy or Hanner or kick to JB or Max. Also trailing on the break a la Watford. Troy and Stanford need to attach themselves to Vic as long as he is around this summer.

  • Gregory Spera

    “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.”

    No wonder Crean likes the kid. That’s our bread and butter. How can you not love these new guys? Next year has GOT to be better than this past one was.

  • deebo

    Hopefully he will get a ton of playing time early

  • The_Real_Assembly_Hall

    Max is going to be a great guy on the team at Indiana. Sky is the limit because of his mentality. It looks like Coach Crean has established a very solid recruiting connection Wilbraham and Monson too.

  • inLinE6

    “Sky is the limit because of his mentality”..

    And his height! The kid is still growing. He’d be a scary shooter when he reaches 6’9”.

  • JetpackJunky

    I don’t know. Do we think he’ll improve on anything once he gets stronger? I wish that would be addressed somewhere!

  • Hoosier Hall

    I’m hoping he studies Doug McDermott. 🙂

  • CreanFaithful

    He’s going to need to learn to use his body to his advantage, something Stauskas couldn’t and probably will never do. But Stauskas was also much more agile. I don’t hate the comparison, because they are both pure shooters with a ton of confidence. But as he develops, I believe their differences will be more prominent…

  • CreanFaithful

    What does that mean? I’m guessing that you are inferring that his strength will hinder other aspects of his game? Really, I just don’t understand what you are trying to say.

  • Andy Rafael Aguilera

    Welp, one things for sure…..This dude is gonna be a hit with the ladies in Bloomington. I’d say that’s pretty successful.

  • N71

    Good read. I see guys like Max and Devin in the same light as I do Will and Jordy. Probable 4 year guys and therefore critical program stabilizer, key contributors, and fan favorites. 5-Star guys are certainly great but as we know, they leave soon after arriving.

  • Outoftheloop

    I was one of the first to say that Max will be a great freshman at IU. He can shoot right now . But he was 6′ 7 going on 6′ 9 in height. As he gains strength , conditioning, explosion and defensive tenacity he can really help Indiana. If he can be as tough and dedicated as Will with Hayward (Butler) skills, then he has NBA credentials.

  • Outoftheloop

    Imagine Will as a 6’9 wing. For your daughter throw in that he is a true “surfer dude”!

  • Outoftheloop

    He will be 6′ 9 not 6’6, Hayward of Butler.

  • 323SGrant

    Saw Max online at the Derby Classic. Could improve strength for rebounding and defense, but looks to be a good player for IU. Shooting was good as advertised and it was nice to see him drive as well as he is doing on that picture above against that Illini recruit, Black? I can’t believe we lost to Illinois twice last season. Ouch! Getting back to Max I think he can help us some as quickly as this Fall.

  • Outoftheloop

    Yes we do . Case in point Yogi year 2 over year 1! Check the strength, check the stats!

  • Snookafly

    I don’t know about who’s better looking, but you should see his girlfriend– he’s got Will beat in that department.

  • Shaggy_C

    Part of me likes the idea of the underappreciated role player coming onto a team. I think the transition is much easier than if you’ve been used to being “the man” all your life and suddenly get thrown into a support role where there are several better and older players on the team ahead of you. Some egos can’t handle that kind of hit, and those are the kinds of players who transfer out to move back home or to a smaller school. Hoetz seems to me like the type who will come in, know his role, and grow into the kind of player who will be pushing for All B1G his junior and senior year.

  • Kwang

    Violation! Must post link to a picture!

  • aHoopandaPrayer

    Speaking of Will… any news on where he might be off to next year? While he’ll make a great pro in Europe, I could also see him deciding to just go to law school.

  • Alford Bailey

    Max is way more skilled than Will was and 3 inches taller. I’m seeing Chandler Parsons type game outta Max in a couple years. No wonder Billy the Kid was in to see him.

  • KmanCRK

    I honestly don’t get the Sheehey comparisons at all. Maybe in mentality or something, but I don’t see their games being anywhere near correlated with each other. With that said, I am excited for this kid. Whether he earns a lot of playing time or not this year, he’s going to be a beast in practice and will grow into a great player due to his height, skill set, and having a great head on his shoulders. I like how all three of our main recruits are hard working driven guys. This will pay off big time. These are the kind of kids we need to be recruiting every year to build a truly sustainable program. Work ethic and character to go with talent.

  • Ole Man

    Not seeing Max as more skilled than Will.
    Maybe in the future, but not now.

  • CreamandCrimson

    I’m not criticizing any of these comparisons but I think the human mind
    is really predictable (see white guy, find white guy to compare him to)
    30+ comments and I’ve seen comparisons/”Max should emulate and be like”
    to Steve Novak, Will Sheehey, Gordon Hayward, Nik Stauskas, Doug
    McDermott and Chandler Parsons.

    Good luck Max and may you work hard to be the best player you can be.

  • plane1972

    I’m as excited as any to have Max on the roster. Seems like a great kid with the right attitude, but this all sounds like he has a lot of developing to do to be a consistent contributor. Proceed with caution on your expectations for next season. I think it will take some time for him.

  • William Hagenmaier

    where’s he gonna play and whose place will he take?????

  • g_bo


  • Rie

    They will pan out to be totally different players; people just like to compare white players to white players. I personally think it is funny when this is subconsciously done, so I am not trying to start anything, but this just always seems to happen in basketball and football. So far in this thread we have Gordon Hayward, Nik Stauskas and Doug McDermott…

  • JetpackJunky

    It was actually a reference to how in the article the Coach mentioned “strength” in terms of improvement or “stronger” 7 times. Including three answers in a row containing some form of as “he gets stronger” blank will improve.

    I thought it noteworthy how Coach hammered that point.

  • JetpackJunky

    I should have dropped an /s on there. I was just making fun of how many times his coach talked about how much better he’ll be once he’s stronger.

  • I’d be reluctant to compare him to Hayward of Butler, but I would be ECSTATIC if he turned out that way. Hayward could handle the ball like a guard @ 6′ 8″. Golly would that be a pleasant surprise for HoosierNation.

  • CreamandCrimson

    I wrote the exact same thing…it’s hilarious. You left off the mentions of Will Sheehey and Chandler Parsons. By the way, I know LaMarcus Aldridge is good but I didn’t expect him to look like an all-time great against the Rockets. Houston must be missing Kelvin Sampson’s wisdom (I am definitely joking!).

  • Gregory Spera

    That’s true. I mean, look what happened to IU Basketball right after Sampson left. It took years to recover from losing that “wisdom.”

  • marcusgresham

    I haven’t seen Max’s, but I did see Will’s in person at Senior Night and she’s beautiful. If you’ve done better than her, you have some serious game.

  • marcusgresham

    I just realized that, if he were to redshirt a year and stay for 5 she could actually go to school with him since she’s going to be a HS freshman next year (and has told me for about 4 years now that she is definitely going to IU. She commited as a 4th grader, and I don’t think she’s going to “Lyles” that LOI.)

  • marcusgresham

    I’d say Kyle Korver but I hope his defense is better.

  • Gregory Spera

    Ha! We just had a Kyle Korver sighting!

  • inLinE6

    Not now, but probably more skilled then Will was as a freshman coming out of HS.

  • CreamandCrimson

    It was inevitable…we need more white guy comparisons here, how about this one: Max reminds me of Adam Morrison. Am I doing it right?

  • CreanFaithful

    They do mention rebounding, but one would assume that it would also impact his ability to mix it up defensively at the 4 spot and with his explosiveness in attacking the hole (a part of his game he has been working hard at).

  • Gregory Spera

    In my overactive imagination, his game is a cross between Larry Bird and The Pistol, with maybe just a touch of Dirk.

  • Rie

    Haha, did not see that when I posted, but spot on! I was actually guilty of this before this season, because I was trying to make Parsons to Sheehey comparisons. Let’s just say I was wrong, but saw the potential for Will to have the same type style/play. Unfortunately, that never panned out.
    You may be joking, but you are right. The Rockets are a mess right now between Harden having two of the historically worst games a player has had in the playoffs and Kevin McHale being a mediocre coach (although I still like him). Aldridge is incredible, but at some point, we have to double team him, which we have not at any time whatsoever. Either way, I do not necessarily miss Sampson, but do miss what helped us succeed in the regular season, since of a sudden McHale is resorting to rotations and subbing he has never done. Frustrating to say the least, but it is the first year Harden and Howard are playing together and the roster is no where near complete. (Sorry once I start on a Rockets rant I cannot stop)