On more than a few days, Derrick Hoffman had thought about giving up basketball.
The constant pain in his right knee had robbed him of the lift and burst that made him a York-Adams League all-star at Northeastern High School.
With the encouragement of his Penn State York coaches, however, Hoffman decided to stick with the game he had played and loved since he was 8 years old.
Over the weekend, Hoffman’s tenacity paid off in a very big way at a very big time.
The 6-foot, 5-inch senior turned back the clock with a pair of standout performances that helped the local Lions claim an unlikely Penn State University Athletic Conference men’s basketball title.
Friday night, in a 76-68 semifinal win at Penn State Mont Alto, Hoffman collected 25 points and six rebounds. Sunday afternoon, in a 57-56 overtime triumph over Penn State Wilkes-Barre in the championship game, Hoffman added 14 points and eight rebounds.
His championship effort just happened to come on a very big stage — the 15,000-seat Bryce Jordan Center on Penn State's main campus. It also came against a team that was a No. 1 seed and had beaten PSY twice during the regular season.
For the weekend, he averaged 19.5 points and seven rebounds per game vs. a pair of teams that each boasted at least 20 wins.
Not bad for a guy who was averaging about eight points and three rebounds per game entering the weekend.
Remarkable for a guy who wasn’t sure he would ever play again after tearing his ACL, spraining his MCL and slightly tearing the meniscus in his right knee in a devastating injury during his freshman PSY season.
Painful return: After a year of physical therapy, Hoffman returned to the court, but it didn’t go quite the way he had hoped.
“I wasn’t the same,” he said. “I still had a pain in my knee that made my movements slower, and I was constantly thinking about my knee. I had a lot of days that I wanted to give basketball up.”
Unfortunately, the knee wasn’t his only injury problem. He also dealt with less severe but bothersome issues with his elbow, ankle, Achilles and shin.
Praise for his coaches: Ultimately, however, Hoffman decided to keep grinding at the game — a decision he credits largely to PSY head coach Parrish Petry and assistant coach Matt Rotonda.
“Coach Petry told me that I do good things for the team and said ‘you will just have to play the game smarter.’ So, I really worked on playing the game that way,” Hoffman said. “Also, my assistant coach, coach Rotonda, was also a huge factor in why I kept playing. He would get me in the gym and got me on summer leagues to keep me playing and get some confidence back. Without my coaches, I would have been done playing basketball after my injury.”
Not giving up: Sunday night, when they were celebrating their championship, Petry, Rotonda and Hoffman’s PSY teammates were certainly thrilled that the former Bobcat standout opted to stick with the game.
“I cannot say he is 100 percent, because that would be far from the truth,” Petry said. “He has just thrived on leading by example late in the season when we needed it most. Somehow, he has found the strength to work through the pain. And he has given us some unbelievable production. The team sees his effort and determination, and it has lifted us to this championship.”
The championship game included a moment that Hoffman will likely never forget.
“I got a dunk in the game, and the entire bench went crazy,” Hoffman said. “That was a good feeling. However, the best memory will be the playoffs and everyone telling me that I was the reason we were in the championship and a big factor why we won the championship.”
The future: Sunday’s win also means that Hoffman and his PSY teammates will keep their season going. The championship earned PSY an automatic berth in the upcoming United States Collegiate Athletic Association Division II Tournament.
No matter what happens in that tournament, however, Hoffman believes he is now prepared for whatever life may throw at him in the future — a future that the accounting major hopes will include a career as a certified public accountant.
“I got through a big mental (and) physical obstacle and will always take that with me through life,” he said.
Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Penn State York, by virtue on winning the Penn State University Athletic Conference men’s basketball title on Sunday, earned an automatic berth into the United States Collegiate Athletic Association Division II Tournament. Here are a few notes about PSY’s postseason appearance.
OPENER: Penn State York (20-8) vs. Central Penn (12-11).
WHEN: 2 p.m. Sunday.
WHERE: Penn State Fayette in Uniontown, Fayette County.
► PSY lost to Central Penn in the regular season by 20 points. Central Penn’s record is deceiving. The Knights played a difficult schedule that included several NCAA Division I programs.
► PSY coach Parrish Petry, 55, was a high school star at West York and enjoyed a successful run as Red Lion High’s head coach. In 10 years at PSY, Petry’s teams have won seven PSUAC division titles, four conference crowns, two regular-season championships and earned five trips to the USCAA event, with a national runner-up finish in 2017.
► PSY’s leading players are Anthony Bennett Jr. (6-foot senior, 12.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg), Justin Luton (6-6 senior, 11.8 ppg, 6.6 rpg), Derrick Hoffman (6-5 senior, 8.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg) and Michael Coleman (6-4 sophomore, 7.4 ppg, 5.4 rpg). Hoffman and Coleman are Northeastern High grads. Luton had the game-winning tip-in in the final seconds of overtime in Sunday’s PSUAC championship win vs. Penn State Wilkes-Barre. Luton is a first-team all-conference player and last year’s PSUAC Defensive Player of the Year.
QUOTABLE: “Our chances are as good as anyone’s. This is our fifth year to the national tournament in my 10 years, so they know us there, and we are well-respected in our national conference. Two years ago we lost the championship game in overtime. When we win, it does not surprise anyone.” – PSY head coach Parrish Petry.