"Big Dog" Hoffman Wins WNBA’s Most Improved

September 19, 2008 | by Ericka Sanders

Frank McGrath/PS&E Photo
You don’t have to know Ebony Hoffman to love her. Her personality kind of wraps you up like a big bear hug. She smiles when she greets you, pinches your baby’s cheek before you ask for a picture and plays really, really good basketball.

In her fifth season out of USC with the Indiana Fever, Hoffman was named the 2008 WNBA Most Improved Player of the Year and judging by the results, the media loves her too. Hoffman captured her first WNBA award handedly with 31 votes followed by Chicago Sky’s Jia Perkins with five.

Overcome with emotion, Hoffman thanked God for “instilling in her the tenacity to keep going even when you think it’s not going to be recognized and the struggle starts to get a little bit too hard.”

Her tears fell while thanking her husband of nearly a year, Ronald Cass “who told me if I just dug a little deeper and a little harder this year that every dream I had would come true.”

Lastly she thanked her parents who she says were constantly calling and emailing encouraging her, and first year Head Coach Linn Dunn and assistant Jim Lewis.

“The change of Coach Dunn inspired me to bring more than I could ever bring,” she said.

And what Hoffman brought this season was career highs in points (10.4), rebounds (7.8), assists (1.8), steals (1.4), field goal percentage (46.5) and three-point percentage (45.6).

Earlier in the season, Dunn noted that one of the reasons Indiana was able to give up Tamika Whitmore in a trade with the Connecticut was Hoffman's continuous improvement over the years.

“Ebony works really hard,” she said. “She’s proving on the court what we knew she could do.”

Frank McGrath/PS&E Photo
While Hoffman has never feared battling opposing players for rebounds (she finished the regular season as the only player in the league to pull down 90 offensive rebounds, finishing with 94) it was her three-point shooting that surprised a lot of people this season. Her three-point field goal percentage ranked as the best single-season percentage in team history and that’s saying something for a 6 foot, two-inch power forward/center.

“During the offseason when I walked into the coach’s office and they told me what I needed to work on that’s what I tried to do,” Hoffman said.

And it’s all paid off and has been written in the record books.

  • Hoffman is just the fifth player in WNBA history, and the first in four seasons, to finish among the league’s top five players in rebounds per game and 3-point shooting percentage, during the same season.
  • She is just the second player in the past eight seasons to rank among the top five in both categories.
  • She averaged more rebounds per game than any player ever ranked among the WNBA’s top five in 3-point percentage.

    Still, for all of Hoffman’s statistics, WNBA President Donna Orender pinpointed what people recognize who have either come in contact with the Harbor City, Calif. native, or who have watched her play --- “her tremendous heart and tremendous pride.”