Wright State women’s basketball: Hoffman believes team ready to turn a corner

FAIRBORN — Third-year coach Kari Hoffman put together a fundraising golf outing for the women’s basketball program at nearby Beavercreek Golf Club last week, hoping to generate enough money to help her squad take a summer European trip like the men’s team just did.

It turned out to be a major success, drawing 27 foursomes (at $500 a pop) and a slew of sponsors. And a grateful Hoffman stood near the front door of the clubhouse, greeting nearly all of the 100-plus players as they arrived.

Most of the chit-chat was about golf swings and the welcome sunshine, while what she really would have preferred talking about was her team. After 4-19 and 8-24 records (and just six wins in her first 34 games), Hoffman believes the Raiders are poised for a breakthrough season.

“I love our team. They’re competing super hard. They’re getting after it every single day. And they’re a really fun group to be around,” she said.

Hoffman has reason for optimism. The Raiders won six of their last 11 games in 2022-23, including their Horizon League tourney opener.

But the standards at Wright State are high. Ultra-high. The program made three NCAA tourney trips (and notching its first win with an upset of Arkansas) and averaged 23.5 victories from 2013-21.

And though she wasn’t exactly set up for success by the previous staff — she’s needed to overhaul her roster twice, bringing in 12 new players after her first year and eight after her second — the former Cedarville coach knows how important it’ll be to continue to show progress.

“We accept that. That’s our standard, too. I have no clue what heights we’ll reach this year, but I know right now we are further along than we were the last two years,” she said.

“We’ve got a group that couldn’t be more mature and businesslike. And we’re deeper.

“It IS a big year. I feel that. I expect that (pressure). And I’m looking forward to it.”

The Raiders have to replace three of their top four scorers in Bryce Nixon (11.5 points per game), Emily Chapman (9.7) and Isabelle Bolender (8.9). The trio were a big reason the team finished second nationally in 3′s per game with a 10.1 average and 22nd in 3-point shooting at 36.4%.

But while they also set program records with 323 overall 3′s and 18 in one game, they couldn’t overcome a glaring deficiency that foes exploited: No inside game.

The Raiders were out-rebounded by a staggering 14.5 per game, which was the second-worst mark in the country (out of 350 Division-I teams).

Hoffman hopes some transfers and a tougher mentality will help.

“We have a bit of an inside game!” she exclaimed with a laugh. “We’re really excited to have size and players who want to score down there.

“They’re doing an excellent job. There was one day where there was a drop-step post move that was more powerful than anything I’ve seen in the last few years. I about lost it. It was awesome.”

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