Jaleel Hogan stays put at Detroit Mercy

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Detroit — It wasn’t exactly the tweet heard ’round the world, but ’round Calihan Hall is fair.

“You mean, when his account got hacked?” Detroit Mercy coach Bacari Alexander quipped.

Hardy har har.

Detroit Mercy star forward Jaleel Hogan’s status with the Titans was in doubt from May all the way until mid-September, with Titans administration hardly offered a peep on his status.

The mystery began how so many do these days, on social media, when Hogan posted on Twitter his intentions to transfer following the 2016-17 season. That was followed quickly by reports he perhaps planned to finish his college career at UAB.

And then, just like that, nothing.

The tweet was quickly deleted, and Alexander and staff stayed mum on Hogan’s status for months. So unwilling to discuss the topic on or off the record, one time this summer when Alexander was asked by a reporter about Hogan, he went into an unprompted description of his recent holiday weekend.

All righty, then.

Those days, finally, are over, as the mystery has been solved and, more importantly, resolved — with Hogan learning early last month that, after a mountain of summer course work, he was declared academically eligible and is on Detroit Mercy’s roster and will play when the team opens play Saturday, Nov. 4, in an exhibition against Wayne State at Calihan.

“I was thinking about transferring, I looked at a couple of schools and my teammates were always in my ear and I just wanted to come back and finish what I started here,” Hogan said recently during Detroit Mercy’s media day. “We have a great group of guys here who wanted me to come back, so I was all in.

“I have no regrets in coming back.”

Said Alexander: “It could potentially be one of those great stories of perseverance.”

By the book

The truth is, there never was any big intervention after Hogan hastily sent on that tweet. He was ruled academically ineligible, which also means you’re ineligible for a transfer, per NCAA rules.

“When you don’t have eligibility,” said Alexander, “you can’t leave, period. That’s a Division I rule. So, you know, there’s not so much interaction needed in those situations, more than allowing time to let it sink in.”

And once it finally sinks in, then you come up with an action plan. And that’s what Detroit Mercy and Hogan did.

It started with the first summer semester, in which Hogan had a whole lot of makeup work to do. And it continued in the second summer semester, when Hogan had a new courseload to tackle and, of course, pass.

Despite describing the situation in two sentences, the task sure sounded monumental. It wasn’t easy.

“Oh, it was a mountain,” said Alexander, entering his second year as Detroit Mercy coach. “I never knew that Jaleel could hike, but he hiked the mountain like a Titan should and the fruit of his labor is not only regaining his eligibility, but he earned back his opportunity to be back with the team.

“Hiking does that, you know? Any misstep off Everest, that can be deadly.”

Hogan, it should be noted, as the king of fouling out of basketball games — 11 last season alone, 17 for his collegiate career — but he stayed in the game when it came to class work over the summer.

And in early September, the good word came out. Hogan was eligible. He was on the roster. He would finish his career as a Titan.

That day, Alexander said, Hogan walked through Calihan Hall with a “Cadillac smile.”

Then, he popped into Alexander’s office for a chat. It was brief, but it was impactful.

“I just smiled at him and said, ‘Hey man, congratulations,’” Alexander said.

“And he just simply replied, ‘Thanks Coach.’”

Shaping up

While Hogan, a Saginaw native who attended high school in Mount Pleasant, was up to speed in his classes, he still had to get up to speed elsewhere. Namely, there was conditioning. And then there were his teammates. Hogan might be a star — he averaged 15.2 points and 5.8 rebounds last season, and 10.5 points and 4.2 rebounds the season before — but there still was some respect to be earned among his peers who had put in the work on the court over the summer, in anticipation of a season expected to be a whole lot better than last year’s 8-23 mark.

“What are we doing to work ourselves back into the conditioning you need to be in to help the team be successful,” said Alexander, “is really where the internal peer to peer evaluations occur.

“I think that’s a developing situation for sure, as you can imagine being out of the mix for a little while. He was never disconnected. He always remained in some level of contact with his teammates, which was a good thing. I think that helped him when he was on that mountain.”

The next mountain to climb will be on the court, where the Titans were a surprise pick to finish fourth in the Horizon League.

They will rely on Corey Allen, who had a fine freshman campaign; Kameron Chatman, a transfer from Michigan; and, of course, Hogan, among others.

Alexander has said he expects double the victories from last season, and athletic director Robert Vowels has stated his intentions for a winning season — and marked improvement over last year.

Hogan’s presence — a 6-foot-7, 260-pound bruiser — certainly should go a long way toward achieving those goals, not to mention getting Detroit Mercy folks to forget about that one little tweet, which may have been posted in May, but seems like a lifetime ago.

“The only regret I have is ever trying to leave in the first place,” said Hogan, who’s a liberal-arts major. “I’m so excited to be back now.”

David Goricki contributed