One degree of separation
It's not as if their names are as common as Tim Smith or John Johnson.
Or even Scott Tanaka. if you are from Hawaii.
That's what makes two members of the Morris and Minooka basketball teams so unique this year — they have players with the same name, with a slight variation.
Meet Jake Hogan of Morris and Jake Hogen of Minooka.
While the Redskins and Indians no longer are common opponents on the winter schedule any more, the two standout seniors from each community have more in common than just their names.
"We know that he's a good player over there and I don't think the similarities end with the names," Morris coach Joe Blumberg said. "They are both hard workers and good athletes. They can both shoot the ball and that's beneficial to their programs."
Minooka coach Scott Tanaka agrees with Blumberg's assessment.
"I can share those same sentiments. They are both leaders of their basketball teams," Tanaka said. "Ours has been up on the varsity for four years and he is very seasoned. I know they have great leadership skills on and off the court."
Both Hogan and Hogen are captains of their teams, and even though Morris' Jake is 5-8 and Minooka's Jake is 6-3, they each shoot well from the outside and are not afraid to attack the basket. Morris Jake is averaging 9.9 points, 1.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game and Minooka Jake 11 points, six rebounds and three assists per game.
"He's a good player. I think we both have similar styles," Hogan said. "We're both good shooters who know when to drive. I think that makes us similar, though he's a lot taller.
"He's not real vocal, except to his teammates. He doesn't really talk to anyone else on the floor, but that's the way it's supposed to be."
That may be described as the sign of a good team leader.
"I've played against him a few times. I've seen him every once in a while and then watched him at various tournaments," Hogen said. "I think we're both leaders. We also both can shoot from the outside. Those are the two major things we have in common, other than our names. I like to get my points attacking the hoop first of all and I'm sure Jake is the same way."
Hogan said that he first heard of his neighboring namesake a couple of years ago.
"I first heard about him going into my junior year. I remember the newspaper writing about him but they misspelled his last name with a-n instead of e-n," Morris Jake said. "It was his picture but my name."
Hogen said that he's never met another person, other than Morris Jake, who has shared his name.
"I have not, never have," Hogen said. "Obviously other than the other Jake Hogan from Morris."
Nor has Joe Blumberg, who's first name is really Fred — which he shares with his father, sort of.
"It's not my dad's name either, he's Fred Arthur," Blumberg said. "No I haven't (heard of another person named Joe Blumberg). Not that I can remember."
However, the same can't be said for Tanaka. He's actually met another person with the same name.
"Believe it or not, I have, but not that we both played the same sport and are captains of their basketball teams," Tanaka said. "Tanaka is actually a pretty common last name if you come from Hawaii, which I did."
While the name is certainly a commonality, what is uncommon is the absence of the Morris vs. Minooka game that used to be an annual occurrence. After the demise of the local holiday tournament, and the departure of the Redskins from the Southwest Prairie Conference, there has been no game scheduled for two years now.
"It's sort of a rival, so I miss it," Morris Jake said.
Tanaka said that it would have been nice to see the two Jakes together on the same court this winter.
"Having them both in neighboring cities, it would have been fun if we had played each other," he said.
Perhaps something the Redskins and Indians need to get together on.
"I'd always like to see us play because its a rivalry game," Minooka Jake said. "The fact that there was two Jake Hoga(e)ns would have just added another element to the story. I wish we could have done something the last few years, it just didn't work out."