Hoffman continues to improve her game

August 5, 2009 | By Ericka Sanders

Frank McGrath / PS&E Photo
The jig is up - Ebony Hoffman can shoot.

Shooting a blazing 45.6 percent from beyond the arc last season, “Big Dog” as she is affectionately called by fans, won over the WNBA and was named the league’s Most Improved Player in 2008. She deserved it because she was all over the court. Averaging 10.4 points after scoring 4.2 a game in 2007, Hoffman led the team with 7.8 rebounds, both career highs, along with assists (1.8) and steals (1.4).

After a year like that, how do you continue to improve?

“After having a good season last year, my goal was to capitalize on that and not get complacent,” Hoffman said. “This year I’m starting to dribble a little more, attacking the basket more than just shooting because (teams) know I can shoot now, and I’m not as open as I used to be.”

Hoffman may not be as open, but her shot is still pretty deadly as she is third in the league, shooting 46.2 percent from the three point stripe. Still, maneuvering her way through defenders on her way to the basket is key since Hoffman rarely misses from the free point line, shooting 91.3 percent (sixth in the WNBA). It was also one of her offseason goals.

After leading the team in rebounds last season, however, Hoffman is aware that she hasn’t been grabbing as many boards.

“My rebounds are down, and my feet have something to do with that. But it’s about working harder to get to the board,” she said.

Assistant coach Jim Lewis agrees – with a big laugh.

“Blocking out, which is an inside joke. It’s one of our biggest weaknesses as a team and sometimes fundamental needs to be emphasized,” he said. “Ebony is a natural, instinctive, nose for the ball rebounder, but she still can’t make it a jumping contest.”

Hoffman and Lewis’ relationship is a special one. “She’s like a daughter to me,” he said.

Lewis acknowledged Hoffman as a very hard worker. The Fever’s first round draft pick in 2004 can usually be found in the gym dusting off old tricks and adding new ones.

“I think she has the complete game,” Lewis said. “She’s a great facilitator, a tremendous passer, ball reversal person and can penetrate and kick to open people. Obviously she stretches the defense for us with her three point shot and she’s diversifying her game by driving more and getting to the free throw line.”

It also helps that Hoffman’s husband of nearly two years, Ronald Cass, is by her side at home and in the gym.

“He’s got an array of moves that most people can’t even dream of having and little by little he’s teaching me different things to do with my game,” she said. “It’s amazing (to have him by my side). This is an extremely stressful job, and it’s predicated on winning basketball games. It helps that he’s around me every second. He watches the game, watches film with me and we come in the gym early. It’s such a blessing.”