Sam Hoover is heading back where he believes he belongs.
The Minnesota native will soon return. Specifically to the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul.
That’s because the Barron Collier High School soon-to-be graduate has scorched Southwest Florida with his defensive play in lacrosse, helping lead the Cougars to four straight regional quarterfinal appearances.
That not only will earn Hoover a spot on St. Thomas’ prestigious club team — five-time national champion, including last season — but it also makes him the Naples Daily News Boys Lacrosse Player of the Year.
“I’ve always loved Minnesota,” said Hoover, whose family moved to Naples when he was 2. “I wanted to choose St. Thomas because it’s a good academic school and I felt I could compete at a pretty high club level up there. So it’s the best of both worlds.”
As a kid, Hoover also played basketball, tee-ball and soccer, but lacrosse, which he started in the third grade, soon grabbed his full attention.
“Only lacrosse brought everything together with the tough, physical aspect of it and also the hand-to-eye (coordination) you need to be good at it,” Hoover said.
He grew to be 6-foot-2 and quite the player.
“Being a four-year starter for our program in of itself is a difficult task,” Barron Collier coach Trent Carter said. “That tells you the type player he is.
“He’s a very good positional player. He’s a big kid, so it makes it difficult for kids to get around here. Very solid.”
Hoover credits Carter and company for his progression.
“I was blessed to be on varsity as a freshman,” Hoover said. “I got thrown into a starting role my sophomore year. A little nerve-wracking. But I feel I’ve proved myself over the years and I’m the Naples Daily News Player of the Year now.”
Barron Collier, which went 15-8 while playing eight top-10 state foes, couldn’t do without him. Literally, although he missed a couple not-so-important games with a thumb injury. Prior to the April 15 playoff game against Gulf Coast, Hoover’s mom called Carter, telling him her son had a roaring fever. His temp was 104 degrees.
With Hoover on the field, Barron Collier won, 12-11.
“She thought I was crazy to make him come to the game and play, but I think if he didn’t play, we wouldn’t have won that game,” Carter said. “He really stepped up and played literally out of his mind.”
Soon Hoover will use that mind in the classrooms and on the lacrosse field at St. Thomas. He’s looking at majoring in sports management. He’s considering law school. He’d like to be a sports agent.
Carter said Hoover could’ve gone to a Division I program, but his heart was set on St. Thomas.
“Every kid is different, and that’s what makes the world go around,” Carter said. “He loves Minnesota. He hasn’t been a big fan of Florida since he moved here, so God bless him. He gets to go back to where he wants to be. And I think St. Thomas has a really nice program and he’ll fit in well there.”
About Dana Caldwell
Dana has been the leading source of FGCU athletics reporting since joining the Daily News in 2005. Besides blanketing FGCU’s dramatic rise into a Division I mid-major power, he’s covered the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the Tampa Tribune as well as Arkansas Razorbacks, Indiana Hoosiers and Purdue Boilermakers basketball and football.