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Augustana Observer

Down, but not out: Hoepfner back after concussion

Hoepfner shoots a free throw against Illinois Wesleyan. Photo by Hoang Nguyen.

Hoepfner shoots a free throw against Illinois Wesleyan.  Photo by Hoang Nguyen.
Hoepfner shoots a free throw against Illinois Wesleyan.
Photo by Hoang Nguyen.

Senior Nic Hoepfner of the Augustana Men’s Basketball team has been striving to return to his starting center position following a concussion injury last month.
Hoepfner recalled that Augustana’s Dec. 10 home game against UW Whitewater was “extremely intense.” He said both teams have had Top three rankings in Division III Basketball this season, and with that, both were competing for high stakes.
“It was a pretty physical game, definitely inside the post…everyone wanted (the top spot) so bad, they were willing to do anything to make a play,” said Hoepfner.
Those high stakes and high competition levels are what Hoepfner said were the catalysts for his injury, which occurred after his head collided with a Whitewater player’s knee as both dove for a rebound. Though Hoepfner remained benched for the remainder of the game, the Vikings won over the Warhawks in a close 96-94 victory.
Hoepfner suffered an initial concussion that would take one to two weeks to recover from, but further diagnosis revealed an additional neck injury that added on another three weeks.
“It was definitely a frustrating situation…for the first two or three weeks, I was on bed rest to get rid of the concussion symptoms,” said Hoepfner.
Losing a senior player for nearly five games reduced the team’s options and did not go unnoticed by fellow teammates. Senior Brandon Motzel expressed the team’s frustrations with Hoepfner’s injury in an email, calling it a severe blow to the team at a critical point in the season.
“Nic being out was obviously a huge blow for us, and losing a senior leader on the team is always tough,” said Motzel.
Yet the team was determined to not let the injury allow opposing teams to gain a competitive advantage. While Hoepfner said he gave support and remained a presence on the team, other teammates had to “pick up the slack” to maintain their top Division III spot. Both Hoepfner and Motzel commented on the player’s willingness to pick up that extra slack.
“Regardless if I was injured or not, no one will feel sorry for us, and a lot of guys stepped up and came together with us,” said Hoepfner.
“Coach G is always preaching that everyone needs to be ready to step up all the time, and injuries are part of the game…we reshuffled some positions with Nic out,” said Motzel. “There are a lot of games left, and we cannot let that one game define our season.”
That one game has certainly not defined Hoepfner’s season, as he was able to return to play at the Jan. 14 North Central game. However, he has so far struggled in reconditioning his skills and said it will take “time and repetition” until he can return to his former playing ability.
Yet Hoepfner remains hopeful and focused on the season goals of his team and himself.
“I (hope to) definitely contribute to the team as a post presence and defensive presence, hopefully ultimately get that championship for the team…getting better collectively as a team (will) help us reach that destination,” said Hoepfner.

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Down, but not out: Hoepfner back after concussion