On the eve of the eve of the 2010-2011 basketball season, let us pause, just for a moment, to appreciate what we have. Sometime shortly after tip-off, someone will make a mistake. It could be a missed lay-up or a blown defensive assignment. Someone will fail to pass to the open man, or shoot a three-pointer in transition when the lay-up was available, and the grumbles will begin. They will grow louder when it becomes obvious that a certain player didn’t make the expected improvement in the off-season, as if it is possible to perfect a skill that was non-existent. Maybe Al Nolen will still have trouble finishing in traffic. Rodney Williams could still struggle to score of the dribble. Blake Hoffarber might only be the best shooter in the country.
Wait, what? Being the best shooter in the country is still not good enough?
I’ll be the first to admit that it would be fantastic if Hoffarber was a little faster, could jump a little higher, and was a little quicker on defense. However, you won’t read my complaints about that here. The fact of the matter is that the Gopher basketball program is blessed to have him, and that would still be the case even if he is as one dimensional as his critics claim.
As he enters his final season and prepares to go on to bigger and better things, we should not forget how he arrived, or more correctly stayed. Fresh off an ESPY and an appearance on the Today Show, he was one of the most well known Minnesota high school basketball players in years. He could have easily gone to Vanderbilt or Notre Dame, two teams who were at the time up and coming, and would play in the NCAA tournament in a year. Instead he chose to stay home, even though no one would have blamed him he left. He committed to Dan Monson during one of the darkest seasons in Gopher basketball history. I wish I could read his mind and tell you why he chose to stay. I do know it wasn’t the coaching. I know it wasn’t because of some slick recruiting. Lord knows Dan Monson had a hard enough time convincing himself what to do. I’m pretty sure Hoffarber isn’t psychic, so I doubt that he predicted that Monson would soon be gone and Tubby Smith would gallantly ride in to rescue the program. While I don’t know why he stayed, by process of elimination, all that is left are reasons involving loyalty to the home town team. You have to respect that.
Ever since he has been a Gopher, he has been one of the most important players on the team. What Gopher fan will ever forget this, the moment that what can only be described as a decade long nightmare finally ended with a miracle.
Those chills aren’t just because of the change of season.
Blake Hoffarber fell victim to a sophomore slump, but he didn’t quit, or complain. Instead he channeled whatever frustration had built up into improving his all around game, and had easily his best season last year with career highs in scoring, three point shooting, assists, assist to turnover ratio, rebounds, field goal percentage, free throw percentage, and three point shooting percentage. He was the most efficient offensive player in the country, the fourth most accurate shooter in the country. He also set the career record for three pointers in a career with 200 and three pointers in a game with eight.
Barring injury, by the end of his career, he’ll hold an unbreakable three point shooting record, and be the team’s first thousand point scorer since Dan Coleman.
Last year the Gophers were 15-2 when Hoffarber scored in double figures, and once again the team’s success will largely hinge on his outside shooting touch. So let’s just say for the sake of arguments, that Blake Hoffarber is just a shooter. Every player can’t be everything, Blake Hoffarber included. At least appreciate that he is the best shooter in school history, probably the best shooter in the country, the most important player on the team, and on top of it all a home town kid that chose to stick around.