Little Shot Blake?
Remember this guy?:
Well, whether you watched the video or not, if you're a fan or follower of Minnesota basketball -- surely you know of the hoop legend that is Blake Hoffarber: maker of hardwood miracles, local high school champion, 2007 Minnesota Mr. Basketball, Gopher freshman record holder for three's (70), two-time ESPY nominee and one-time winner of said award for possessing the unique ability to hit clutch shots from his rump.
But at this stage of the season for the upstart, 21st ranked Gophers (16-2), Big Shot Blake sadly can hit neither the broad side of a barn, nor the backboard, rim or netting of the Barn.
Hoffarber's season began smarty enough and it appeared his outside shooting ability wasn't hindered by the NCAA's one-foot extension of the three-point line. The sophomore standout had six double-digit scoring efforts in Minnesota's 12 non-conference games, and there seemed evident growth in both his stature and game. This chart suggests otherwise:
The conference season has seen the Big Ten humble Little Blake. In his six conference games, Hoffarber is just 7-of-29 from the field (.241). Of greatest concern perhaps, is that of those 29 shot attempts, a crazy 25 have been launched from behind the line. Hoffarber has made just four of those tries (.160). For a dude that made nearly 43 percent of his three-point shots in 2007-'08, this season is serving as a sobering reminder that the kid may need to find new/different facets to his game to exist in the Big Ten.
True -- a shooter shoots, and that's what Hoffarber does best. But perhaps a lay-up, a runner, something, say, within eight feet of the hoop may allow Hoffarber to rediscover his southpaw sling.
The Gophers had a sour effort Sunday at Northwestern, a loss that gave the Wildcats their first conference victory this season. Yet, coming off of the Gophers' emotional and phenomenal overtime win at Wisconsin preceding that effort -- such a let-down was almost expected. This Thursday's visit from 18th ranked Purdue (14-4), however, can rapidly rectify whatever residue remains from that rancid effort.
But will Hoffarber be a part?
The Gophers very much appear, if nothing else, an inspired choice for third (maybe second) in the Big Ten and a lock for March Madness. Al Nolen and Lawrence Westbrook have established themselves amidst the top guards in the conference; Devron Bostick and Paul Carter now appear most comfortable and productive slashing around in Maroon & Gold; Colton Iverson and Lil' Ralphy Sampson are two of the nation's top freshman in the paint; and Damian Johnson is undoubtedly one of the most versatile players in the entire country.
And that leaves Hoffarber. A shooter shoots. But a basketball player knows that sometimes a pedestrian lay-up is just as productive as a shot from the tush.
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