Cade Hoppe is a big man with personality to match.
He stands 6-foot-9 with a wingspan seemingly long enough to touch the rafters, and his motor runs hot as he relentlessly crashes the boards, pounds his way up court with long strides and contests shots around the rim.
Hoppe’s Twitter profile reads that he is a singer and songwriter, and why not? The guy can do just about anything in any setting. Anyone pulling a 4.05 grade-point average at Oak Ridge High School with mutual interest from MIT to study finance and economics has a pretty good handle on things.
And what a tune he belted out in Oak Park on Wednesday night.
The senior center muscled inside for 18 points, dominating the interior with bank shots and putbacks, and grabbed 16 rebounds to key Oak Ridge’s 63-55 win over Sacramento in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division I seedings upset at venerable Dave Hotell Pavilion.
Oak Ridge had lost four of five entering the playoffs, a bad trend given the might and muscle of the D-I field that includes heavies Sheldon, Capital Christian, Folsom, Jesuit and Modesto Christian.
Hoppe on Wednesday also handled the ball, made good passes and generally competed to the point of exhaustion. Sweat trickled out of his curly hair and off his chin, but the look of sheer satisfaction was there.
Hoppe pointed out the efforts of his teammates, many of whom he’s known for years. He is surrounded by like-minded sorts, each willing to make the extra pass, to scrap for every loose ball, and that combined effort suddenly has the D-I field on notice. Upsets happen, and Oak Ridge yearns for more as the No. 12 seed. Sacramento was the fifth seed, having won 14 of 15 games coming in.
“The playoffs are survive and advance, win or go home,” Hoppe said. “We knew that. We played well. We’ve played together since we’ve been 9 and 10 years old. This is not the end of our story.”
Oak Ridge (17-11) starts all seniors, and nothing beats experience, said second-year coach Rich Sondhi, who was an assistant coach for playoff teams at Capital Christian, Granite Bay and Woodcreek.
“Our seniors have been great, and we’re battle tested,” Sondhi said. “We’ve played in Las Vegas, in Palm Springs and all over the Sierra Foothill League. We came in ready and relaxed.”
Before the game, Sacramento coach Earl Allen urged his team to keep tabs on Hoppe, challenging them to answer his efforts. He told the Dragons, “The big kid will give you everything he’s got, and he’s really good. My concern is if you can give it back.”
Izayah Talmadge led Sacramento (23-5) with 17 points.
Drake Middleton scored 16 for Oak Ridge, and Spencer Duane nine. Koelbe DiMauro and Tyler VanderVeer each had seven, and Landon Woodwick had six for the Trojans. Each handled the ball and made plays on defense.
But the main man here is Hoppe. He comes from good family genes as his father, Sam Hoppe, was the sixth man for an Oak Ridge playoff team in 1989. The son is better, if we’re to believe the kid’s broad grin. Hoppe hopes to garner more Division I recruiting interest but understands how competitive that game is.
For now, Hoppe and friends target rival Folsom, seeded fourth, winners of the SFL and with two wins over Oak Ridge this season. The rematch is Friday at Folsom, which opened with a 73-48 win over No. 13 River City.
Hoppe will bang against another formidable big in the 6-9 Mason Forbes, also quite the inside player and scholar. He is headed to Harvard.
“We’re right back where we wanted to be – back at Folsom for another shot,” Hoppe said. “Last time we played, I had seven points. Foul trouble hurt me. We’re two of the best bigs around, Mason and me, and it’ll be fun.”
Hoppe’s work ethic has made him a player.
“Growing up, I wasn’t very athletic,” he said. “I was tall and awkward. What I can say is I’m here now because of hard work. And I’ll keep working.”