Bendigo Braves captain Chris Hogan will reach a significant milestone tonight. Photo: Andrew Perryman.

SUCCESS is one key factor in maintaining a 400-game career, but Chris Hogan says he wouldn’t have played for half as long if not for the relationships he has made along the way.

The Bendigo Braves legend will become just the seventh player in South East Australian Basketball League history to reach the lofty milestone when the Braves travel to Mount Gambier tonight.

Hogan started as a wiry teenager who didn’t expect to play SEABL in his first season under coach Dave Flint and has since won two titles.

However it was a lack of success that made him come back for another year after resolving to take 2018 off.

“The milestone didn’t really play into it. It’s a bit of a cliché, but in that situation the individual stuff really doesn’t come into it,” he said.

“It was probably the way last year ended, just with that disappointment. I didn’t want to end my career that way.”

Coach Ben Harvey, also a close friend and former teammate, was also a key in getting Hogan back into the fold, saying “I gave him no choice really”.

As Hogan struggled through 2017 with a niggling back injury that affected his form, the team in turn also struggled.

He has never been the star player on the Braves’ roster, but you need only look at the 2016 championship to see just how important Hogan is to the side.

“He really changes the way we play,” Harvey said.

“Having him out there at the four, he’s not the biggest guy and he isn’t going to be a huge presence in the post, but he spaces the floor and allows guys like Ray Turner, Matt Andronicos and Jeremy Kendle the space to work.

“He is such a smart player and a good leader as well, he was the captain of our championship side and he is great to have as a coach, to know you have that kind of leader in the group.”

This year, Hogan feels he is back to some of his best. His body feels good and he has returned with a different mindset.

“I guess after thinking I wasn’t going to come back, I’ve just been a bit more relaxed and able to enjoy it a bit more,” he said.

The 399 games Hogan has chalked up so far would take a toll on any individual, but it isn’t just games that take their toll.

“It’s at least twice that many trainings, the games you don’t play in and still travel, the injuries, it’s a huge commitment,” he said.

“I’m lucky in that after all that time I still love basketball. I love playing it and I love being involved in it.”

Along the way he has made a lifelong friendship with co-captain Taylor Bell, shared the court and a title with brother David and now has a daughter to share the game with.

“That’s the reason I’m still playing. If I didn’t like anyone there I wouldn’t be playing, as silly as it sounds,” he said.

“Having success and competing at that level is important, and it’s enjoyable and it’s a big motivator.

“But that doesn’t happen without having a great core group and especially during the late 2000s and looking at Pat Jennings, Adam Tanner, Warren Randall, Chris Novak, Taylor was there too, Kev Probert.

“There was a group that was pretty solid for a long time and helped us be successful for a very long time. With those guys then and even now I’m enjoying every minute of it.”

Hogan scored 16 points in Bendigo’s 92-88 win over Hobart last weekend, and is regaining the outside shooting that saw him hit 47.8 per cent of his three-pointers in 2016.

But this time he is confident there will be no change of mind, no backflip.

“I’m done after this year, definitely. I’m out,” he laughed.

“I probably should’ve retired after 2016, but it’d be very nice to win it again this year and retire then.”

Bendigo plays Mount Gambier tonight at 8pm. The Braves return home for a double-header against Albury-Wodonga from 12pm on Sunday.

Joel Peterson