Purdue honors Hoffman as one of its 12 best Former Bullet was All-Big Ten four times

December 27, 1997|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF

Paul "The Bear" Hoffman, who humorously contends he was "kidnapped" by Purdue officials as a 17-year-old basketball prospect, will be honored today by his alma mater in West Lafayette, Ind., as one of the Boilermakers' top 12 players over the past century.

It is the latest honor bestowed upon Hoffman, 72, best remembered in Baltimore as a member of the original Baltimore Bullets' 1947-48 NBA championship team. A burly, 6-foot-2, 205-pound guard, known for his aggressive style, Hoffman was Rookie of the Year that season.

Three years ago, Hoffman was selected by the Indianapolis Star for the Indiana High School Hall of Fame.

But he appears to be especially proud of his recognition by Purdue, finding himself in the company of John Wooden, Terry Dischinger, Rick Mount, Joe Barry Carroll and Glenn Robinson.

In the brief background description offered by the Purdue publicists, Hoffman is credited with winning All-Big Ten honors all four years (1944 through 1947) but being named All-America only his last three seasons.

"Actually, I made All-America all four years," said Hoffman. "I don't think anyone from Purdue can say that. When I was a freshman, I was picked to play for a college all-star team against the pro champions -- the Fort Wayne Pistons -- in Chicago Stadium.

"That was the first and only time I played against Buddy Jeannette, who became my coach and teammate when I was drafted by the Bullets in 1947."

How Hoffman found his way to Purdue is a story in itself.

"When I graduated from high school in Jasper, Ind., I'd made all-state and had a number of schools offering me scholarships," he recalled. "I could have gone to Indiana, and Adolph Rupp wanted me at Kentucky."

But Hoffman was gripped by patriotic fervor.

"All six of my brothers had been in the military," he said. "I was 17, but I enlisted in the Merchant Marines, and I got sent to Coney Island, N.Y., of all places. They thought the German submarines might attack the East Coast."

While stationed there, Hoffman suffered a double hernia that led to his hospitalization and a service discharge.

"I was getting ready to head back to Jasper, when Cecil Isbell, who was an assistant football coach at Purdue after finishing his days as quarterback for Green Bay Packers, offered me a ride to Indiana.

"That's when I say I got kidnapped. I fell asleep in the back of the car, and when I woke up, I'm on the Purdue campus and they're offering me a basketball scholarship. It was too good an offer to refuse."

Hoffman became an instant starter for the Boilermakers. As a freshman, he scored 34 points against Wisconsin at Madison. By the time he graduated, he had set a conference career scoring record with 914 points.

"Two guys I remember playing against wound up making bigger names for themselves in professional football -- Otto Graham and Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsch," he said.

After ending his pro basketball career in 1955, Hoffman returned to Purdue and served briefly as a baseball coach and assistant basketball coach. But he returned to Baltimore in the early '60s with the second coming of the Bullets, serving for several years as general manager.

Hoffman and his wife, Audrey, still make their home in Harford County.

Pub Date: 12/27/97

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