New School, new roles

<p>Crystal Cain photo Hermistons' Jeni Hoffert dribbles past South Albany player.</p>

The Bulldog basketball faithful might get a little confused if they watched alumni Maloree Moss and Jeni Hoffert play on their new team.

The duo — 2012 graduates of Hermiston High?School and freshmen on the Eastern?Oregon?University girls basketball team — have switched roles from the ones they held in high school.

Moss, a four-year starter at point guard for the Bulldogs, has been spending time playing shooting guard this season.?

Meanwhile, Hoffert spent two years as a varsity starter playing shooting guard, and has transitioned to playing more of a point guard role for the Mountaineers, who are 17-2 on the season and looking to make another deep run in the NAIA tournament.

“It’s not too bad, because being a guard is being a guard, so I mean,?I haven’t noticed,”?Moss said. “I’m averaging about 12-to-15 minutes a game and I’m definitely happy with that.”

Hoffert gets fewer minutes than Moss, but is enjoying her time at her new position regardless. “It’s definitely shown me that I need to work on my ball handling skills, and pressure, but I like it,”?Hoffert said.

If the two were a bit surprised that they started the next level playing a new position, their former coach, Steve Hoffert, wasn’t much surprised at all.

The Hermiston High?School girls basketball coach explained that Jeni?Hoffert’s height — she stands at 5-foot-10 — combined with her excellent court vision make her a suitable point guard.

He actually considered playing her at that position, but Moss already had a strong foothold, and he just felt more secure making her floor general. “Jeni is more of a high-risk scorer,”?Steve Hoffert said. “She can be one of those girls who go out and dominate. Then she might have those games where it’s not working, things aren’t going well. Maloree is consistent, and I knew what I was getting with Maloree. But I knew if I put Jeni on the wing, I was going to get her consistency on the wing, and not worry about what else was happening, because Maloree was going to take care of that for me.”

A position switch, however, is just one of the many things the two freshmen have had to get used to.?

Playing at the college level has opened both their eyes to the speed and physicality of college basketball.?

 Neither took the opportunity their freshman year to red shirt, instead throwing themselves into the fray and being forced to adapt.?

Neither has acquired a starting role, but both have played in 10 games or more this season. “A lot of the difference (between high school and college) is just the aggressiveness, and just every day in practice you’re fighting for a spot, and you’re fighting for playing time,”?Moss said.

Moss and Jeni Hoffert were used to playing time, and used to being able to run and control the pace of the game.?

Now they’re back to square one at a new school in a more competitive environment.?

Moss averages 2.5 points per game and 1 rebound per game in 19 contests, and Hoffert averages 1.3 points per game, and has played in 10 Mountaineer games. “It’s definitely a big change from having a smaller team,”?Jeni?Hoffert said. “Having your spot on the team, and then coming to college and not knowing anymore.”

But both have embraced their roles as young guns, want to improve their play and understand the extra work it takes to be a collegiate athlete. Their former coach sees it as well. “I think both of them are learning a lot about the college game, the schedule of an athlete, the time commitment, the film work, the practice work, the travel, that in high school you only get a taste of,” Steve Hoffert said.

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