On Sunday, Heath Hoffman was able to corroborate everything he had heard about playing at Musgrove Fieldhouse for the Sauk Valley Predators.
The 2008 Winnebago High School graduate had heard from his mother, Dana Servatius, that the semi-pro club drew big crowds. In fact, she was impressed with the crowd at Highland Community College, a far cry from the capacity crowds that turned out in Sterling.
He’d also heard some stories from his girlfriend, Katie Johnson, a 2007 Sterling grad.
But he saw first-person the history of the fieldhouse and the atmosphere surrounding the organization as one of 22 players to try out for the Predators. It turns out Jeremiah Box, who played for the Preds in their inaugural season, was speaking the truth as he sold Hoffman on trying out for the team.
“I saw a lot of familiar faces,” said Hoffman, who played 1 year at both Highland and Sauk Valley Community College before moving on to play 2 years at Sacramento State. “It was friendly and very professional, and it was neat to see a lot of the fans from the area at the tryout.”
In the weeks leading up to the tryout, team owners Brad and Leah Grenoble received lots of solicitations from prospective players’ agents. Hoffman’s reel was not among them.
“He just showed up and started playing,” Brad Grenoble said. “You know he was good when you talk to every kid, and they said, ‘That white kid with the shaved head can play.’ “
He was blown away by Hoffman’s guttiness.
“There were people bigger than him, stronger than him, and he’s the one standing out,” Grenoble said. “He was a smart basketball player. Great basketball IQ, and he can stroke it from everywhere.”
The Predators are zeroing in on their final 12-man roster, expected to be finalized within the next 2 weeks, as some players are wrapping up postseason play with their teams overseas. Several players will return from last year’s squad, most notably former McDonald’s All-American Jereme Richmond.
“It looked like [Hoffman] and Jereme had played together for years,” Grenoble said. “They were picking, rolling and running stuff like they were teammates forever. It was awesome.”
In the wake of the Premier Basketball League’s merger with the International Basketball Association, the Preds also scored players like Kwan Waller, who scored 39 points per game with the Rockford Riverdawgs. He, too, once played for Sauk.
Shortly after his time with the Skyhawks, Hoffman got bit by the bug to coach.
“That’s the 5 or 10-year plan, something like that,” Hoffman said. “I talk on defense, but I’m not a vocal guy in the locker room. I like to lead by example.”
In that vein, he says his goal is to help players reach their potential and keep moving up. Not so dissimilar from the Preds’ mission statement.
High school: Winnebago, Class of 2008
College: 1 year at Highland Community College; 1 year at SVCC; 2 years at Sacramento State University, degree in communications; plans to earn his masters and coach someday
Hobbies: Going to movies, spending time with his 1 1/2-year-old pitbull/rhodesian ridgeback mix
Statistics: Appeared in 27 games his senior season at Sacramento state, including nine starts...averaged 4.6 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game…shot 76.5 percent (26-34) from the free throw line, the second best mark on the team
Stay tuned: SVM will bring you the Predators’ roster in its entirety, once it is finalized by the team.