Park Center senior guard Quinton Hooker has averaged 24.2 points per game in leading the undefeated Pirates basketball team (9-0) to the No. 1 ranking in Class 4A.
Impressive as they are, those numbers fail to tell the whole story. Called "a natural leader" by Pirates coach Bo Powell, Hooker paid for the Pirates' fast start by fulfilling his role as the program's standard-bearer for the past three seasons.
"We told him going into his sophomore year that he would have to be a leader, a player who had to make his teammates play at their highest level," Powell said. "We've asked him to do a little bit of everything, and he does whatever we ask every time he steps on the court. He's the most underrated player in the state."
Though Hooker is no overnight success, notoriety is coming fast. Park Center stripped Apple Valley and defending Class 4A state champion Osseo of their No. 1 rankings already this season. Next up is DeLaSalle, the No. 1 team in Class 3A and reigning state champs. Tipoff is 7 p.m. Thursday at DeLaSalle.
Hooker spoke with Star Tribune reporter David La Vaque about the Pirates' fast start, his growth as a leader and the matchup with DeLaSalle.
Q What's it like being ranked No. 1?
A It's definitely a great feeling to see early on that our work is paying off. But it also shows you that, with us beating two No. 1 teams, it's easy to get knocked down. So we have to continue to work hard.
Q What have you been hearing from people in your school and community about all the success so far?
A Every game the crowds seem to get bigger. The vibe around the school is great -- everyone is talking about the basketball team. It's been a lot of fun, especially for the seniors who have come this far and are making some of our big games actually big games.
Q Coach Powell said he has held you to a higher standard since you were a sophomore. How have you tried to meet that expectation?
A When I was younger it was difficult to accept the role as leader because there were a lot of seniors. But over the years I've grown into that role and learned a lot from it. It's become a part of me now. But all the credit goes to the team because without them I'd be nowhere.
Q Looking at the roster, what roles do different guys play on this team?
A Devin Buckley transferred from Prairie Seeds and he averages about 20 points per game for us. He's a great scorer. Treyton Daniels is an athletic wing who can grab rebounds or change the game with a dunk. The Matthews brothers, Isaac and Josh. Josh is another good wing. Isaac is an undersized big man but he does his job down there in the post. Isaiah McKay is a great shooter who can knock down shots from everywhere. Same with Jake Tanner. Devin Payne is our scrapper. He's not afraid to defend anybody. I know I'm naming everybody but they all have a big part in this.
Q Looking ahead to DeLaSalle, you have another game with a No. 1 team. What are your thoughts on the matchup?
A They have always been a good program. I know a few guys on the team and they are great players. We definitely have to prepare hard for them.
David La Vaque • 612-673-7574