Wright State’s Hoffman staying upbeat despite rough season

FAIRBORN — Kari Hoffman knows all about the winning tradition of Wright State women’s basketball. That’s one of the factors that attracted her to the job after a successful stint at Cedarville.

But the second-year coach has experienced nothing but grim results on the court since her arrival. After a 4-24 maiden season, her team is 2-18 with 10 regular-season games to go.

The wins are against an NAIA foe in Ohio Dominican and lowly Detroit Mercy. Of the 18 losses, only two have been by single digits.

Hoffman, though, knew she wasn’t exactly dealt a pat hand. Her predecessor, Katrina Merriweather, went 113-47 in five years with two NCAA trips, but her departure triggered mass defections among players, requiring a major roster overhaul.

The new staff brought in 12 new players before this season to get to the standard 15. And realistic expectations have helped Hoffman see the positives amid the struggles.

“This season has been really rewarding so far,” she said. “There’s been a slow but constant climb from the players in the right direction.

“Their drive, their persistence, is exactly what we asked for — even through adversity, even through not winning a lot. They haven’t changed.”

The Raiders had a brutal non-league schedule, facing Ohio State and Tennessee among others.

But their winning percentage of .100 is among the worst in program history. The Raiders went 1-13 (.071) in their first year in 1973-74 and 3-25 (.107) in 1989-90.

“We’re undersized, you’ve got to call it like it is,” Hoffman said. “Defensively and rebounding-wise — I don’t want to say it’s a weakness, but it’s not a strength of ours.

“Almost every team in the Horizon League has at least one really good big girl. We’re trying our best to keep them to one shot and get the first rebound. But it’s a battle every day.”

The Raiders have the worst rebound margin in the league by a mile at minus-15.8 per game. Purdue Fort Wayne is next to last at minus-7.0.

But one bright spot has been 3-point shooting. The Raiders are shooting 35.3%, which is on pace for their best clip in 15 years. And they’re making a league-best 9.6 treys per game.

That probably shouldn’t be surprising since Hoffman was a dynamo from long range as a player at Cedarville, finishing with the most career 3′s and best percentage in school history.

“I’m so excited to see our team reap the benefits of all the shooting since they’ve been with us. They’ve spent a lot of time getting those reps up. And we just preach, ‘Never pass up an open shot.’”

They set a school record with 18 treys against Cleveland State on Jan. 20. That came one week after tying the record with 15 against Detroit.

Emily Chapman (47.6%), Bryce Nixon (40.5%) and Lauren Scott (39.5%) are knocking them down with regularity — partly because they know they have the freedom under Hoffman to let it fly.

“We still have a lot of conversation about shot choice, but when you’re open, you’d better shoot it,” the coach said.

After her run at Cedarville — 106 wins with three regular-season league titles in five years — Hoffman admits the losses can be deflating.

Just because she can see some positives doesn’t mean they don’t wear her down.

“The thing that keeps me going, No.1, is I come home to a great family life. My husband and my kids, they put it all in perspective — and trusting God has us in the right spot,” she said.

“We’re right where we’re supposed to be. And we’re seeing that pay off. I truly believe we’re building a really good foundation with our team this year.”

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