Friday, January 9, 2015

Versatility, Scoring Pace Of Haldane's Hoffman Is Rather Familiar


Scoring-wise and leadership wise, Haldane senior guard/forward Peter Hoffman's role is jarringly similar to former Blue Devil Jackson Zuvic.

Zuvic, a 1,000+ point scorer and like Hoffman a four-year varsity player, etched his legacy with a clutch County Center performance.

It was Zuvic's memorable, buzzer-beating short corner jumper from behind the glass that lifted Haldane to a dizzying Sectional semifinal win over Lincoln Hall back in 2011.

Zuvic now plays at SUNY Oneonta, bordered by Section 1 products and sharpshooters such as JFK's Frankie Kelly and Brewster's Jack Dignan.

 Hoffman is currently one shy of the 1,000-point milestone, following a 30-point showing during a 72-45 win over North Salem.

 Since running the point as a callow freshman thrust into meaningful varsity minutes, Hoffman's path has been akin to Zuvic's.

Though slightly shorter and a bit more athletic than the 6-foot-7 Zuvic, the notes and descriptions once synonymous with Hoffman's game are essentially the same as Zuvic's:

Small-school savior. Capable of going off for 30-40 any given night. Multi-sport athlete. Basketball family. Underrated. Shouldering the burden of leader. Drawing double teams. Go-to-guy in crunch time. Must avoid foul trouble. Carrying a lot of weight on his shoulders. Division-III player, Division-I athleticism.

"They both played at elite levels," said Haldane head coach and homegrown product Joe Virgadamo.

"Peter, like Jackson, has progressively gotten better up until his senior year. Their handle. Their moves. Playing with more confidence. They both know that when push comes to shove, they've got to take the key shot at the crucial time."

The senior learned that late in the Blue Devils New York State/Class C regional semifinal last season, in which they outlasted S.S. Seward 61-54.

"We were in a timeout and I basically turned to Peter and said, "you got us here. You've got to get us out with a win. We're practicing tomorrow," Virgadamo recalls.

Hoffman looked physically and mentally drained at that point.

The wear and tear of fighting for his shot amid increased pressure while constantly guarding the opposing team's best player had caught up to him.

Immediately after the timeout, Hoffman drove into traffic for a lefty layup. Then he splashed a 15-foot jumper with a Seward defender aggressively face-guarding him.

"He scored about seven points in a row and just completely changed the game," Virgadamo recalled.

"They went on a run to cut it to be about three, from what I remember. He just took it back about to about an 8-9 point lead. The momentum just swung our way."

As was the case with Zuvic, Virgadamo has the freedom to play Hoffman at all five positions.

He's capable of handling the ball and orchestrating offense, his role when he transitioned from Garrison's modified to Haldane's varsity to replace pass-happy veteran point guard Jimmy Meekins.

 It was Meekins, who graduated prior to Hoffman's arrival, who kicked it to Zuvic for that aforementioned short-range buzzer-beater.

He's a post up threat. He now takes advantage of a two-guard or smaller defender draping him, bullying him inside on a four-out, one-in.

Hoffman is a stretch four type, a passing big man with a dependable shooting touch from mid-range and deep. Facing box-and-one coverage and amped up pressure, he's still been putting up high-20s and 30-point performances.

This summer, Hoffman got a chance to showcase his vertical leap in the dunk contest at the BCANY Summer Hoops Festival.

Virgadamo helped pilot Haldane to Section 1 championships in 1999 and 2001 as a rugged guard. He's a Blue Devil through and through.

With all the perennial mystique surrounding the potent girls program, Virgadamo has helped yield the boys basketball seed in the tiny, antique store-laced town of Cold Spring.

The supporting cast, like last year, has been critical.

 Edmun Fitzgerald, a 6-foot-5 senior, 6-foot-4 Garret Quigley, and 6-foot-3 Miguel Torigibio have provided size and can turn in double-digit scoring every night. Guards Ryan McCullom and junior Will Zuvic--Jackson's younger brother--have been instrumental in getting the ball to Hoffman and stretching out the floor.

"He's dangerous," Virgadamo said of Will Zuvic.

 "He's one of our best shooters, along with Peter. He's another guy who can post up, hit the three. He's been a problem for a lot of teams this year. When you have guards like Tucker Beachek, you can get Peter on the wing."

The year-round work ethic and constant desire to get better has allowed Hoffman to put up the type of numbers he has. Virgadamo said the time that Hoffman has put in and the way in which teammates gravitate to him has been like few others he's had at Haldane.

It also makes him a reliable crunch time deliverer, the kid they'll feature down the stretch.

"Peter needs to get a touch, if not every possession, every other and especially in key situations," Virgadamo said.

 "If guys are struggling, Peter does what he has to do. He showed that against Clark. When a lot of guys struggled, Peter dropped 28 points. He managed to hit some big shots and have a couple of big putbacks. In Peter's off game he might have 15-20 points, where in somebody else's off game, they might not score."