Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Hoffman’s Seven Senior Bears

By Andrew Stabell

How much can one say about leadership?

Can leadership make the difference between a winning season and an average one? If you had all the talent in the world, with no leaders to define the character of a team, would they be successful?

In Bob Hoffman’s world, the answer is clear. A defined committee of leaders can bring you to unprecedented heights. Hoffman’s belief is rooted in reality, as he’s presided over the most prosperous four-year stretch in over 100 years of Mercer basketball.

Behind the success is a cache of battle tested seniors, who’ve cut their teeth as leaders under Hoffman’s watch.

The 2013-14 season marks the end of an odyssey for the seven-member Mercer senior class, a grizzled collection who’ve spent the last four years learning to be leaders while trail-blazing a new era of prosperity for Mercer men’s basketball.

The journey began as freshmen in the 2010-11 season, when players by the names of Langston Hall, Bud Thomas, Daniel Coursey, Monty Brown and Jakob Gollon cracked into starting lineups. A year later, the group was forging a run in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament, earning valuable experience while capturing the Atlantic Sun Conference’s first postseason tournament championship. Their journey continued in 2013, when the core group – now seven strong as upperclassmen – led the Orange and Black to the A-Sun Finals and ultimately to the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) Round of 16.

Before their final go-around this season, Mercer’s seven-member senior class has made a name for itself. The Bears have knocked off a slew of high-majors, including wins over Seton Hall and Ole Miss this season. These wins have become almost routine for these seniors, who’ve made national publicity and recognition from renowned college basketball pundits a practical norm.

Destined to become the winningest class in program history, the group has spent this season oriented by Hoffman’s maxim of “Path.”  Where the Path leads has yet to be determined, but if preparation truly is the key to success, the senior-laden Bears are destined for a storybook ending.

One of the final chapters in the story will be written in the 2014 Atlantic Sun Championship, where the group attempts to achieve the ultimate goal – leading Mercer back to the NCAA tournament for the first time in nearly 30 years.

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