Height doesn't always coincide with skill and maturity in basketball.
Expectations are often unrealistic for young, tall players like Valparaiso's Conner TenHove, but the 6-foot-7 sophomore has handled his sharp learning curve with nary a bump.
"Coach (Matt Thomas) believes in me. He has faith in me," TenHove said. "Being a sophomore, there are some challenges to it, but you just have to play the best you can. I'm just a player on the team. Sophomore, junior, senior, we're all treated the same. Mentally, I'm ready to go every time."
A freshman on Thomas' junior varsity team last season, TenHove took the step up to varsity with his coach, and has been an integral cog for the 7-4 Vikings. He stands second in scoring (10.9 points per game) and first in rebounding (6.3).
"His basketball IQ is off the charts, especially for a sophomore," Thomas said. "He's been giving up at least 20 pounds to nearly everyone he plays, but he continues to battle. He's a competitor. He's a positive leader. He's constantly looking to learn. He understands the long-term process of achievement -- that discipline and change may be uncomfortable at first, but in the long run, it's going to pay off."
Already 6-0 in sixth grade, TenHove largely avoided the coordination issues that often come with kids who grow quickly. Quick and agile for his size, he's comfortable moving both directions around the rim.
"When I was little, my dad (Tom) always put a ball in my left hand," TenHove said. "I shoot right-handed, but I'm probably more confident going left."
The physical nature of the varsity game has been the biggest adjustment for the slender TenHove.
"It was a little rough toward the beginning," he said. "It was a big change, how intense it is, battling bigger, stronger, better guys. I wasn't very aggressive when I was younger. I've gotten more used to it, experiencing it every game. I have to scrap more. Coach gets on me a lot about toughness, showing energy on the floor."
TenHove's freshman season served as an apprenticeship, practicing against seniors John Mosser and Quentin Palmer. In the summer, he played up an age group with his AAU team, Indiana Elite, which finished fourth in the country.
"One thing I love is he's developing a motor," Thomas said. "That's something that has gotten so much better over the course of the year. So much of basketball is playing through failure. The special players keep pluggin' away at it."
Comfortable out to 15 feet, TenHove said his 3-point shot is 'coming,' an enticing prospect for colleges that are already taking notice.
"What I appreciate the most is he has sacrificed for the good of the team," Thomas said. "(Early), we had to lay a foundation for the new offense and that meant keeping him in the high and low post. But he's also good on the perimeter and I think...that versatility is really going to be valuable for us. It's very possible he will be consistently hitting 3s for us, especially as an upperclassman."
Tom TenHove prepped at Thornwood, choosing to hoop for DePauw over several Division I offers. College is a ways off, but the D-I dream is real for Conner, an 'A' student and promising baseball pitcher as well.
"I live it, eat it, breathe it," the younger TenHove said of basketball. "I'm focused on right now, this team, trying to win, but looking ahead, I picture myself where I want to be. I'd love to play college basketball."