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Ex-Purdue Basketball Star Dies

November 13, 1998

BALTIMORE (AP) _ Paul Hoffman, a basketball star at Purdue in the 1940s who went on to play for the Baltimore Bullets, has died of brain cancer. He was 73.

Hoffman, who died Thursday at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center, was selected by his alma mater this year as one of Purdue’s 12 all-time best basketball players.

He was a member of the 1947-48 Baltimore Bullets championship team.

Hoffman, an Indiana native and 1947 Purdue graduate was the first Rookie of the Year in the Basketball Association of America.

The award, a loving cup, hardly seemed appropriate for Hoffman, known for his aggressive, relentless style. Player-coach Buddy Jeannette usually assigned the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Hoffman to guard the opponent’s leading scorer.

``Paul was a bull on the court,″ said former team owner Jake Embry. ``When he had the ball, no one got in his way. He was a big, strong boy who looked like a linebacker.″

His nicknames were ``The Bear″ and ``The Body.″

Hoffman almost missed the 1948 championship series because his first wife, Mitzi, frowned on his playing pro basketball and running around in shorts. He sat out the 1949-50 season.

``I asked the owners to raise my salary to $7,500,″ he once said. ``They said they couldn’t afford it, so I went back to Indiana and made more money as a salesman for Montgomery Ward.″

He returned to the Bullets from 1951 until 1955, when the team went bankrupt. He finished the season in Philadelphia. He played a total of 317 games, averaging 10.2 points.

His legacy was greater in Indiana.

``Until Oscar Robertson came along in Indianapolis, I always considered Paul Hoffman the greatest high school basketball player I ever say,″ said Cabby O’Neil, who coached Hoffman at Jasper High School. ``Paul could do more things on the court than any player of his era.″

At Purdue, he set several school records, including a conference mark of 917 career points. After his professional career, he served briefly as baseball coach and assistant basketball coach.

He became recreation director of the Maryland Rehabilitation Center in Baltimore in 1973 until retiring in 1993.

He is survived by his wife of 44 years, the former Audrey Jeanne Witcher, four children, a sister and nine grandchildren.

A memorial service is scheduled Saturday at 8 a.m. at Evans Chapel of Memories in Parkville.

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