Leading through example: Brachen Hazen is the spirit every team needs

<p>Ball State junior guard Ishmael El-Amin, redshirt junior forward Brachen Hazen and redshirt freshman guard Jarron Coleman celebrate redshirt sophomore forward Miryne Thomas dunking during the Cardinals' game against Howard Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, at John E. Worthen Arena. Ball State won 100-69. <strong>Paige Grider, DN</strong></p>

Ball State junior guard Ishmael El-Amin, redshirt junior forward Brachen Hazen and redshirt freshman guard Jarron Coleman celebrate redshirt sophomore forward Miryne Thomas dunking during the Cardinals' game against Howard Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, at John E. Worthen Arena. Ball State won 100-69. Paige Grider, DN

“Individual commitment to a group effort — that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” 

The quote from former NFL coach Vince Lombardi fits perfectly for redshirt junior forward Brachen Hazen and Ball State Men’s Basketball. Earlier in the season on the team bus, Hazen made a sacrifice beyond his own personal goals and aspirations for the betterment of the team. 

“We were on our way to UIC, and I was talking to [Hazen] on the bus,” head coach James Whitford said. “He told me, ‘I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what this team needs from me, and that is to be a great leader, rebounder and do all of the hustle stuff.’”

Whitford said he was pleased to have a guy like Hazen on the team and believes he is a role model of what he wants in not just a player, but a person.

“He is a model, a great teammate and great person,” Whitford said. “He is both a leader by example and vocally. For him under his own volition to be thinking outside of himself speaks volumes of who he is and how he thinks.” 

When Hazen was asked how he views himself as a role model, he paused, looked up and gave credit to somebody who has contributed to Ball State outside of putting the ball through the net. 

“I’d say Trey Moses is that guy,” Hazen said. “He was here four years and created a legacy on and off of the court. He is so good to the community, and I don’t think I am to that point yet, but that is for sure something I strive for. Having a guy like Trey to look up to and have that standard is something I want to do.”

Moses, who now plays professionally overseas in Bulgaria, left a trail of inspiration for players like Hazen when it comes to positivity and bringing a team closer together. 

Actions speaking louder than words is something Moses praised Hazen for in their time together. Moses said he is fond of Hazen as a person and a friend.

“Guys can say whatever they want, but it is really about actions,” Moses said. “A lot of people will say they want something and say they want to be a certain way but act [differently]. I always tried to be a vocal leader, but I tried to lead with action as well, and so does he.”

Last season, there was a moment that stood out to Hazen after missing 15 games due to injury. It was a game the team lost but served as a miniature victory in a lot of ways. The reason was because of Hazen’s positivity and actions to help the team mentally.

Ball State redshirt junior forward Brachen Hazen gets a rebound during the Cardinals' game against Howard Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, at John E. Worthen Arena. Hazen had six rebounds. Paige Grider, DN

“Last year when we were playing in Miami, they went on a run, and it was one of my first games back from injury, so I made it a point to be in constant communication,” Hazen said. “I wanted to make sure I was speaking, encouraging the guys that basketball is a game of runs and that we are a talented team and can fight back. We ended up losing, but it was one of those games where everyone was connected.” 

So, what happens when the guy who is motivating everyone else gets down? The answer lies in redshirt sophomore center Blake Huggins. 

“[Huggins] hasn’t seen a lot of action this year, but he is someone who always challenges me,” Hazen said. “He knows me pretty well enough to know when my attitude is shifting toward the negative side. He definitely talks to me and gives me words of encouragement.”

Huggins is somebody who looks up to Hazen based on his attitude toward life and the team. He said he tries to emulate that attitude when he needs it most, and he takes inspiration from the constant communication and positivity. 

“He is the liveliest person we have on the team,” Huggins said. “He is always talking, and he is always energetic. I always laugh at everything he says, and he always brings positive energy to me, so whenever I notice he is off, it is easy for me to get the energy back out from him.”

Hazen doesn’t have the statistics or flashy plays to jump out to someone casually watching a basketball game. For him, it’s not about the numbers. Rather, it’s about keeping the glue intact and doing the little things. 

“Brachen is one of the best people I have been around,” Moses said. “He is so genuine and honestly one of the funniest guys I have ever met as well. He has a great personality, and I don’t think there is anybody in the country that would not want to be Brachen Hazen’s teammate.”

Being the comedic relief for the team and a guy people can go to during the grind and hardships of a basketball season may seem so insignificant to winning games. For the Cardinals, it goes a long way in keeping the team engaged.

Hazen loves to joke. He even loves to make fun of his teammates, but he also knows when to cut it out and pick up a player if they make a mistake and help them move on to the next play. In the end, he said the whole point is to have fun.

“I also want us to have fun because if you aren’t having fun, you won’t play to the best of your ability,” Hazen said. “Whether it is joking around, making fun of somebody when they mess up, but making sure during games people aren’t taking a turnover too seriously, and when they mess up, they can turn it around and stay positive.”

Contact Ian Hansen with any comments at imhansen@bsu.edu or on Twitter @ianh_2.

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