Hancock's Hoffman headed for HCC

May 02, 1999|By BILL STERNER / Staff Correspondent

HANCOCK - Coach Jeff Spielman knew that Hancock's Derek Hoffman was destined to make an impact on the Panthers basketball program way back in elementary school.

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Spielman, the school's varsity basketball coach for the past 14 seasons, just happens to have a day job where he is Hancock Elementary's physical education instructor.

So, it was no surprise when the gangly, but determined young boy, who was more than a head and shoulders taller than all his classmates, would, on a daily basis, beg his teacher to play basketball or to simply have a few more shots at the 7-foot rims in the tiny gym.

"I encouraged Derek to play all the time," Spielman said. "I guess his hard work paid off.''

And it was no surprise to Hoffman, either.

"I always got support from everyone here, everywhere I turned," Hoffman said.

And so, he has decided to stay here.


Hoffman, known as Hancock's "Big Stick,'' said he has signed a letter of intent to play basketball and baseball at Hagerstown Community College next year.

Hoffman, a 6-foot-8-inch Herald-Mail First Team All-Area player, leaves Hancock as not just one of the school's most prolific basketball players, but arguably one of the school's finest athletes in two sports.

Hancock baseball coach Dan Kerns can attest to that.

"Derek has the ability to be a fine pitcher for HCC," Kerns said of Hoffman, the ace of the Panthers' pitching staff. "He has got a great work ethic, and if he stays focused, there is no doubt in my mind that he will make it."

Hoffman has performed admirably for the largely inexperienced Hancock team.

The senior hurler has a no-hitter against Northern Garrett to his credit this season.

But it was on the basketball court where Hoffman shined for the Panthers, leading them to a perfect 9-0 record and a championship in the Mid-Appalachian League this past season. In a 67-game career that spanned three years, Hoffman scored 1,130 points, had 348 blocks, 114 steals and pulled down 715 rebounds. He recorded five triple-doubles last season.

And although the going was rough in the beginning, it was Hoffman's determination to be the best player on the floor, not just his own team, that drove him.

"As a sophomore, he really got pushed around a lot,'' Spielman said. "But he had a real desire to improve. He went to camps and worked at it until as a junior, he could hold his own."

And this year?

"Well, the record speaks for itself,'' Spielman said. "Nobody pushed him around. We didn't see a better big man."

Hoffman has decided to take general studies until he finds his niche, but he plans to work hard in all phases of the next level.

"I am thankful to have an opportunity to play for two coaches the caliber of (HCC basketball) Coach (Jim) Brown and (baseball) Coach (Carl) Dixon," Hoffman said.

"They have shown faith in me, but I know I have to work at my academics and athletics to succeed in college. I know it is a different world than what I am used to now."

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