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    Then & Now: JF Hoffman

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    Then & Now: JF Hoffman

    Compiled By Dave Brandon

    (Photo Courtesy NU Media Relations)

    JF%20Hoffman.jpgJF

    Hoffman played at Nebraska from 1991-1992, and was a

    member of the 1990-1991 team that went 26-8. Winning was

    a normality for Hoffman, as during his two years on

    varsity, Hoffman saw the Huskers go 45-18 (.714) while

    appearing in two NCAA Tournaments.

    A 6'1"

    guard from Holbrook, Hoffman is our latest guest in this

    Sunday's version of "Then & Now."

    HHC: Nice to

    talk to you again. Did you have fun at P.O. Pears back

    in February (at the HHC 1990-1991 Team Reunion Banquet)?

    JH:

    I had a great time. When I first got the invitation, I

    thought, “Well, we’ll run down to Lincoln and go through

    the motions somewhat and come home.” And the fact that

    virtually everyone showed up, it really exceeded my

    expectations. I ended up staying longer than I thought,

    and really enjoyed seeing them again.

    HHC: Awesome, and good to hear. You are

    from Holbrook (NE.), but went to Cambridge High School

    and graduated in 1988. While at Cambridge, you were a

    C-1 Second-Team All-State performer in both your junior

    and senior seasons, and as a senior, averaged 23.4 PPG

    and 6.6 RPG while leading your team to the state

    tournament. How fun were those days?

    JH: I had a lot of fun. We were able to go

    to the state tournament my junior and senior years, and

    of course, that’s the ultimate goal. Cambridge is a

    football school, and I was somewhat of a rare commodity

    being a basketball player in a football town.

    HHC: You were also an

    All-State quarterback in high school, and played for the

    South squad in the 1988 Shrine football game. Did you

    receive any football interest from colleges?

    JH:

    Yes, I did. I actually had a few offers from NAIA

    schools to play both sports, and I certainly was

    recruited much harder to play football than basketball.

    But probably two reasons brought me to Lincoln.

    One,

    basketball was my second love. And my first love was my

    wife, and she was going to Nebraska Wesleyan. She’s a

    year older than me, so I had to find a way to get to

    Lincoln somehow, someway. We started dating when I was

    14 years old. My wife is the greatest thing that ever

    happened to me.

    HHC: Which schools recruited you in both sports?

    JH: In basketball it was Hastings, Midland

    Lutheran, and some JUCO’S, which were North Platte and

    McCook. I really was not recruited to play basketball

    because everybody thought I’d play football.

    As far as

    football goes, I had legitimate offers from Fort Hays

    State, Midland Lutheran, and Doane. And, I had contact

    with other schools, and I think it was a foregone

    conclusion that I was going to play quarterback, so

    basketball schools didn’t come after me that hard except

    for the smaller schools that thought I might want to

    play both.

    HHC: Did you

    know you would be a walk-on for the basketball team

    before arriving on campus, or was that something that

    you didn't realize until arriving in Lincoln?

    JH: I had talked to Coach (Danny) Nee

    because I had been to Nebraska’s basketball camp a

    couple of times. He had watched me play my junior year

    at the (state) tournament right when he arrived at

    Nebraska, so I had a relationship with him, and he’d

    invited me to come to camp in Lincoln the summer prior

    to my senior year.

    So, I had

    some communication with him during my senior year and

    through that communication, I don’t exactly remember if

    I requested or he asked, but we basically agreed that

    I’d have the opportunity to walk-on. So, before I came

    to Lincoln and enrolled in school, that was another

    opportunity I had on the table.

    HHC: What did the walk-on process consist

    of back then, as far as trying out for the team, and did

    you know you were already on the team going in, or was

    it a dogfight?

    JH: Basically, there were a hand full of

    guys, and I want to say three, who were invited. Alex

    Brickner and Matt Marr were two of them, I think. And, I

    was for the most part on the team, although there were

    no guarantees in terms of anything, and I’m talking

    travel games, practice, etc. Early in my freshman year,

    I didn’t even get to practice very much, so it was a

    building process for me.

    HHC: What was your initial impression of Danny

    Nee?

    JH: To be quite honest with you, Danny’s

    personality was unlike anything I’d ever been around.

    Here I was, a kid from Southwest Nebraska coming out of

    high school and we’d had a lot of success, and the

    coaches and people I’d been around in athletics didn’t

    have Danny’s type of personality. So, when the blue eyes

    got open and iced over and the curse words started

    coming out, it quite frankly was pretty shocking to me.

    HHC: Did you

    have to fight to stay on the team from year to year, or

    was that never much of a concern?

    JH: The way it was, the first two years

    for me weren’t about fighting to stay on the team, but

    fighting for me personally to accept my role. What that

    consisted of was mostly practice, and even in practice I

    was not a major part, in terms of game planning and

    things like that. So, the big thing was, do I stay here

    as a nobody, not knowing where this is headed, or do I

    get out right away and go somewhere where I could play,

    because I knew I could play at the NAIA level, and at

    that time, maybe didn’t have the confidence that I could

    go to a good Division 2 program, although later in my

    career, I thought I could.

    The big

    thing for me was to get out on the practice floor and

    get in the pickup games, and it was a tougher adjustment

    for me coming from the style and level of play I came

    from than from a kid coming from Chicago. So, it took me

    a longer period of time to adjust to the size and speed

    of the game.

    HHC: Your first season at Nebraska was

    1988-1989, and you sat out the year as a redshirt while

    the team went 17-16 (4-10, 7th) and made the second

    round of the NIT. What did you focus on that first year?

    JH: I stood around a lot, if you really

    want to know the truth (Laughs). Aside from the drills,

    I ran some scout team, and worked out hard. I made some

    big strides physically in that first year or two.

    HHC: 1989-1990 was your second season at

    Nebraska, and you practiced with the team, but did not

    appear in a game. The team went 10-18 (3-11, 7th) that

    season, and was victimized by the injury bug. Was it

    frustrating not being able to play that year, or were

    you still not ready to compete at that level?

    JH:

    Well, I can speak for that year or any other year in

    that I was frustrated I wasn’t able to play, but I

    wasn’t frustrated that I thought I should be playing. In

    other words, I never had an issue with my playing time

    as long as someone was better than me, so I never had an

    issue with playing time. The bigger issue for me was not

    should I be playing, but should I be somewhere else

    playing.

    In all

    honesty, the fact that I wasn’t out there on the

    practice and playing floor getting the repetitions that

    the frontline players were getting made the process even

    slower for me.

    HHC: 1990-1991 would turn out to be one of

    the best basketball teams in Nebraska history, as you

    guys went 26-8 (9-5, 3rd) and made the NCAA Tournament

    (Xavier). How amazing was that to be a part of?

    JH: It was quite a cast of characters, and

    going into the season, I wasn’t quite sure that all the

    egos involved and personalities could gel together. It

    was very diverse in terms of personalities. And I guess

    one of the things that sticks out were the pickup games

    in pre-season and all the trash talking that went on. My

    background was that trash talking was relegated to only

    the opponent, and not to your own teammates. And I was

    shocked at all the trash talking that was going on

    amongst the players on the same team, although I came to

    realize that’s the way it was.

    But from

    my background, I hadn’t been exposed to that, and in

    retrospect, I see the competitiveness of that team.

    There were some unbelievable competitors on that team,

    and that was the difference. That, and size in the

    lineup, with Rich at 7’2”, Tony at 6’10”, Carl at 6’8”,

    Beau at 6’8”, and Cliff at 6’2”. That was a big team.

    HHC: Definitely

    man, I was watching tape of that team the other day and

    you guys were just so long on the defensive end,

    especially in the 1-3-1.

    JH:

    Yeah, we had an excellent 1-3-1 trapping zone defense.

    You’ve got guys like Cliff and Beau Reid, who was 6’8

    and 230, and you’ve got him playing the two guard.

    That’s a tough matchup.

    Rich was

    an excellent passing big man, as good as anyone, and

    Tony could really run the floor. You had a guy like Jose

    Ramos coming off the bench who was an incredible

    competitor, and Keith Moody, a guy who could really

    pickup the tempo, and not only was that team big, but

    the big guys could run the floor and the ball handlers

    could push it.

    HHC: That season was also your first on

    varsity, as you appeared in six games and were named to

    the Big 8 All-Academic Honor Roll. How sweet was it to

    play in games after two years of hard work?

    JH: That was an exciting season because

    the crowds were unbelievable. I can remember students

    lining up a couple of hours before the game to get a

    seat down on the bleachers, and really, it was just a

    tremendous amount of fun being involved in the

    atmosphere that was involved in the Devaney Center.

    HHC: It has been said by some of your

    teammates on that 1990-1991 team that the late-night

    start against Xavier might have contributed to the loss.

    Is that just an excuse, or is there some validity to

    that?

    JH: Well, I certainly don’t believe in

    excuses. My memory of that game was that we were

    sluggish, and that game went by so fast, that I just

    don’t think we ever recovered from that slow start. It

    was just too late; we were just sluggish that entire

    night.

    I don‘t

    know how you put your finger on it, because there were a

    lot of factors; first trip to the tournament for

    everyone, late night start, although I don’t personally

    believe that was a factor, and the Metrodome was quite a

    different environment, and there was a lot of

    distractions. I remember LSU was another team in the

    region, and Shaq (Shaquille O’Neill) was there, and we

    dressed in the Minnesota Twins locker room, so there

    were lots of distractions, but there are no excuses.

    The thing

    about the NCAA Tournament is that you have one chance,

    or you’re done, and we just didn’t happen to play well

    that night.

    HHC: Prior to

    the start of the 1991-1992 season, which was also your

    senior year, Coach Nee awarded you a scholarship for all

    of your hard work. Talk about what you remember about

    that and what it means to you today?

    JH: I’m proud of that. I felt like I did

    have a role on that team, and even though I wasn’t a

    major contributor in terms of minutes, I thought that I

    had a stabilizing effect on the team in the locker room

    and executed on the practice floor in terms of what was

    asked of me.

    I got

    married prior to my senior year, and so I think I

    brought a level of maturity to the team, too, and I

    think a certain level of toughness. Even at 6’1” 200

    pounds, I prided myself on being physical and executing.

    And the scholarship was a nice gesture by Coach Nee, and

    I was grateful for that.

    HHC: 1991-1992 was your last season at

    Nebraska, and the team went 19-10 (7-7, 5th) while again

    appearing in the NCAA Tournament (Connecticut). What

    sticks out most about that senior season?

    JH:

    That team was different from the ’91 team in terms of

    its personalities. I just remember that probably as a

    group, we got along really well, and I’m not going to

    say the ’91 team didn’t get along, but it was just a

    little more cohesive unit as a whole in ’92. And really,

    I had a blast that year. We had a lot of guys on the

    team that I had good relationships with. Chris Cresswell,

    my roommate. Eric (Piatkowski), Bruce (Chubick), Carl

    Hayes, were just guys that were fun to be around, and we

    had a lot of fun that year.

    HHC: How tough was it to end your career

    in a loss like that?

    JH:

    Well, UConn was pretty good as I remember. Scotty

    Burrell, Chris Smith, were good and played for them.

    I guess

    my memory of that game in Cincinnati was that UConn was

    a better team. I didn’t feel that way in ’91 at all.

    HHC: What would you say was your best game

    while at Nebraska?

    JH: I’m sure my friends will bring it up,

    and let me pause and think of what it was… It was the

    last game in ’92 at the Devaney Center, and it was

    against, I think, K-State (Editors Note: It was, and a

    91-62 Nebraska win). I got in at the end of the game,

    and we were ahead, and we were in our man-to-man

    offense, and Dapreis (Owens) had the ball at the top of

    the key. I popped out to the wing, and we had

    instructions on our team that if you were going to go

    back door, you show the fist. I show my right fast, go

    back door, and he hit me with a perfect bounce pass, I

    laid it up and in, and it was on Regional TV, and I

    remember Jimmy Dykes was the color man. I was running by

    the camera, and I pulled the guns out and waived the six

    guns at the camera. And Jimmy Dykes the next week in

    Norman brought it up and we had a good laugh about that.

    HHC: (Laughs) Nice. What are your favorite

    overall memories of your times at UNL, both on and off

    the court?

    JH:  Well, it was pretty fun going to

    different arenas in the Big 8, and I remember going to

    East Lansing, Michigan to play Michigan State. I don’t

    know if this is the time for the Danny Nee story, and I

    got a lot of them, but I remember we played there, and

    they had Shawn Respert and lots of other guys, and they

    started blowing us out of the gym in the second half.

    And he calls timeout, the place is rocking, and he pulls

    us out on the floor, way out on the floor, and says,

    “You know why I called this timeout? Because you guys

    are playing like (expletive). And this is what we’re

    going to do during this timeout. We are going to stand

    here and listen to the crowd.” And that’s all we did

    (Laughs).

    HHC: (Laughs)

    Gosh I love that guy!

    JH:

    Yeah (Laughs). Sorry to get off task, but I just

    remember that. But we had a great time off the floor.

    Before I got married, I lived with Chris and Kelly

    Lively, and we did a lot of things together. When you’re

    on the team, it’s a serious commitment, and you really

    don’t have a lot of time to be out and about like some

    of the kids in the fraternity system, so we did a lot of

    things together as a team.

    HHC: Which of

    your former teammates have you stayed in touch with, and

    do you follow the current program at all?

    JH: I do. And I stay in touch with Chris,

    and I’ve been off and on in touch with Beau and Rich,

    and Derek Lodwig, and Keith. I had kind of lost track of

    Kelly, but the reunion this year got me back in touch

    with him, and I really enjoyed that. Obviously, Eric

    Piatkowski has gone his separate ways, but it was good

    to see him, and Bruce. I’m kind of isolated from some of

    those guys now.

    HHC: How would you describe the current

    state of Nebraska basketball. Is it healthy, unhealthy,

    or in the middle?

    JH: Well, it’s very tenuous right now. ’06

    is a very important year, and I think the pressure has

    even been turned up another notch with some of the

    change in other Big 12 schools, and I think the

    perception is that a lot of the other programs are on

    the up trend, and I think the perception of the Nebraska

    program is that maybe it’s flat lining right now, in

    terms of maybe not making enough steps for improvement

    that people would expect to see.

    And quite

    frankly, I think there’s a lot of pressure on the

    program to win right now in ’06. And, when I define

    winning, I think everyone who has an investment in the

    program, whether it be a fan, booster, former player,

    whatever, defines success by going to the NCAA

    Tournament. Anything less than that is going to be a

    disappointment.

    HHC: And before we get to today, you said

    you had lots of Danny Nee stories. Can you give us a

    couple more?

    JH: Oh I can,. I’ve been waiting for that

    question.

    1990-1991, pre-season, if you remember, there was a lot

    of pressure on Coach Nee at the time. And he knew it,

    and he had brought in all these new players, guys like

    Tony Farmer and Jose Ramos, and it was still an unknown

    at that time how things would work. And I remember the

    first day of practice, we come out on the floor, and

    here comes Coach Nee with these spring loaded hand

    squeezers, and he’s got these in his hand, and I’m

    thinking, “What the heck?” And practice went on awhile,

    and something happened, and he stopped practice and

    says, “You see these hand squeezers that I got? I have

    these because my doctor has advised me to use them. You

    guys are ruining my health, but I’m going to tell you

    this; I’m not going to get mad anymore. I’ve made a

    decision that I’m not going to get mad. But I will tell

    you this; I’m not going to get mad, but if you piss me

    off, I’ll run you (expletive) until you die.”

    HHC: (Laughs)

    Oh my Gosh.

    JH:

    And here’s my other one. 1991, we were in the NCAA

    Tournament in the Metrodome, and we played the late

    game. We dress in the (Minnesota) Twins locker room, and

    after the game, X number of guys, 2 or 3 or 4, were

    randomly selected to be drug tested, and I was one of

    them. And I remember Keith Moody was one too, and the

    reason I remember that is they took us into this big

    shower room, and you had to fill out your paper work and

    go in with the NCAA representative. And when you went,

    it was just you two in the shower with you in your

    underwear, and the guy had to stand two feet in front of

    you. And you had to drop your underwear below your

    ankles and pee in the cup. And I remember it because it

    was so embarrassing and I remember Keith Moody couldn’t

    pee because he was so dehydrated.

    So I

    walked in the locker room and was done, and Coach Nee

    was there waiting because the first bus left with all

    the guys, and it was late. So all the guys who didn’t

    get tested went to the hotel, and he stayed back. And we

    were waiting because some of them besides Keith couldn’t

    go, and I can’t remember who else, but they had to stay

    there and drink because they couldn’t go.

    So

    finally, when they aren’t coming, Danny gets tired of

    it, he wants to go, and he walks into the “goody room”,

    which was big, and probably 15 by 25 feet full of

    nothing but treats. We’re talking Gatorade, sunflower

    seeds, gum, pop, everything you can think of, and so he

    goes in there, comes out with a case of Bud Heavy, and

    there’s one guard in the room who had been there the

    whole time. He walks up to the guard, and I don’t know

    if he was a Metrodome employee or what, but he asks the

    guard, “Can I have this?” And the guard says, “I

    suppose.” And Danny walked out of that locker room with

    a case of Bud Heavy under his arm and I don’t know where

    he went.

    HHC: (Laughs) That guy is classic!

    JH:

    He’s a character man.

    HHC: (Laughs) Hey, what is J.F. Hoffman up to

    today, and what has he been doing the last 15 years?

    JH: I’ve been married for going on 15

    years, and I have three children. Two boys, who are 11

    and 8, and a girl, that’s 3. And after graduating from

    college, I came home to the Cambridge area and farmed.

    And I just recently downsized my farming operation and

    moved to McCook, Nebraska, to take a job with McCook

    National Bank. I’m still farming some on the side as

    well with my brother in law. And my life revolves around

    my children and their activities, more and more all the

    time.

    HHC: Sounds like everything is well. We've

    set you up an e-mail account at

    [email protected] Are you interested in

    taking some e-mails from our readers?

    JH: Sure.

    HHC: Great! Thanks a lot for your time.

    Anything else you'd like to say or add?

    JH: I appreciate everything you’re doing

    with the website, and really enjoy getting back in touch

    with some of the guys that I haven’t seen in awhile. I

    appreciate everything you did to help with the reunion,

    and the site. And thank you for featuring me on a Then &

    Now. This is kind of an honor for me!<script type="text/javascript" language="javascript">

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