Under the direction of Head Coach Bob Hoffman, the Mercer men’s basketball program has achieved a level of unprecedented success in the school’s history. As
Coach Hoffman begins his 11th season with the Bears, that success and standard of excellence is only expected to continue.
During the 2017-18 season, Coach Hoffman achieved yet another milestone in his illustrious career, winning his 500th game at the men’s collegiate level. Coach Hoffman enters the 2018-19 campaign just two wins shy of 200 victories at Mercer, and his 198 wins as the Bears’ head coach ranks second all-time in the history of the program. Those 198 victories over the past 10 seasons make the Bears the winningest men’s basketball program in the state of Georgia over the past decade.
A two-time Atlantic Sun Coach of the Year, Coach Hoffman has directed Mercer to six postseason tournament berths, 19 postseason tournament victories and 10 power conference wins. Twice the Bears have won a school-record 27 games (2011-12 and 2013-14) under his leadership.
Coach Hoffman led the Bears to a 19-15 record and College Basketball Invitational (CBI) berth a year ago, marking the sixth postseason tournament appearance for the Bears during his tenure. Mercer finished the season winning nine of its last 11 games, including an eight-game winning streak that positioned the Bears for postseason consideration. Despite leading scorer and All-Southern Conference nominee Ria’n Holland being sidelined for 13 games during the season with a hand injury, Coach Hoffman guided the squad to a strong finish that saw the Bears post an 11-7 conference ledger and No. 4 seed in the conference tournament.
The 2017-18 edition of the Bears also featured a trio of 1,000-point career scorers, as senior starters Stephon Jelks, Jordan Strawberry and Demetre Rivers all joined the school’s 1,000-point club last season. Additionally, both Strawberry and Jelks earned second-team All-SoCon honors. Senior post man Desmond Ringer was recognized for his off the court achievements, as he was named to the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) Academic All-District Team and the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Give Back Team, a prestigious group of 10 men’s college basketball players that is recognized for their outstanding community service efforts.
Under Coach Hoffman’s tutelage, the Mercer program has exhibited solid performances both on and off the floor. This past season, the Bears graduated eight of its student-athletes off of the 2017-18 squad, which very well may have been the largest graduating class in NCAA Division I.
The Bob Hoffman era of Mercer basketball officially began on March 27, 2008, thus beginning the most successful period in program history.
The 2013 and 2014 Atlantic Sun Coach of the year has amassed an impressive 198-145 record in 10 seasons with Mercer. Three seasons prior, Coach Hoffman became the first coach in NCAA history to record a win in all four postseason tournaments (NCAA, NIT, CBI, CIT) in a four-year span following a 72-70 win over Stony Brook in the 2015 CBI opening round.
Coach Hoffman guided Mercer to its most memorable run during the 2013-14 season, leading the Bears back to the promised land of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 29 seasons. Not satisfied with simply appearing in the Big Dance, Coach Hoffman guided his senior-laden squad to an upset of the USA Today/AP poll’s No. 6 ranked Duke Blue Devils in the Midwest Region’s 14-3 matchup - leaving the Bears just 40 minutes short of a Sweet 16 appearance.
Mercer’s win over Duke underscored Coach Hoffman’s penchant for big game victories. Since arriving in Macon, Hoffman has led the Bears to 10 high-major wins against the likes of Alabama (twice), Auburn, Duke, Florida State, Arkansas, Tennessee, Georgia Tech, Ole Miss and Seton Hall.
Mercer’s first tournament victory in program history vaulted the Bears into the national spotlight, gaining unprecedented media exposure for the university. Coach Hoffman’s triumph was the team’s 27th win of the season – equaling his own school record for single-season wins set by the 2011-12 edition of the squad. In addition to earning the league’s Coach of the Year honor for the second-straight season, Coach Hoffman took home the Fellowship of Christian Athlete’s John Lotz “Barnabas” Award and the Atlanta Tipoff club’s Georgia Coach of the Year distinction in 2014.
His efforts have helped raise banners for the 2012 CollegeInsider.com Tournament Championship, 2013 Atlantic Sun Regular Season Championship, 2013 National Invitation Tournament (NIT) Round of 16, 2014 Atlantic Sun Regular Season Co-Championship, 2014 Atlantic Sun Tournament Championship and 2014 NCAA Tournament Round of 32.
In the 2012-13 season, Coach Hoffman’s Bears captured the team’s first outright conference regular season championship and made the program’s first appearance in the NIT.
No stranger to the big stage, Coach Hoffman lifted the Bears to a 75-67 NIT win at Tennessee, marking the team’s 24th victory of the year and his 499th as a collegiate head coach. When the season concluded five days later, Coach Hoffman had closed the books on the school’s first back-to-back 20-win seasons in over 100 years of basketball.
The 2011-12 season saw Mercer smash a bevy of longstanding school records, including most wins in a season (27) and points scored (2,589) in the midst of an unprecedented postseason run. When the dust cleared, Coach Hoffman’s squad stood alone as winners of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament, with possession of the first postseason tournament trophy in the history of the Atlantic Sun Conference.
A native of Oklahoma City, Okla., Coach Hoffman has been successful at all levels, boasting a proven track record from high school through the professional ranks. His overall record as a head coach at the collegiate level is 598-315.
The 2010-11 Bears reached the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament for a third-consecutive year and produced many memorable moments along the way. The team went 15-18 overall and 11-9 in A-Sun play, earning the No. 5 seed in the league playoff despite losing two key seniors mid-season. Mercer advanced to the semifinals before being knocked out by eventual champion Belmont in a nail biter. Senior Brian Mills was named first team All-A-Sun, while point guard Langston Hall was named to the All-Freshman squad.
Coach Hoffman’s 2009-10 team advanced to the title game of the Atlantic Sun Conference championships after downing Belmont and Jacksonville in the quarter and semifinal rounds. That year, Mercer garnered two All-A-Sun and two All-Region honors, while also having senior Daniel Emerson honored as the state of Georgia men’s college basketball “Player of the Year” by the Atlanta Tipoff Club. Additionally, senior James Florence became the Bears’ all-time leading scorer midway through the season. The team finished 16-17 overall and was 10-10 in the A-Sun.
Coach Hoffman guided the 2008-09 Bears to a 17-15 overall record and 11-9 in Atlantic Sun Conference (A-Sun) play. It was the Bears’ most wins since the 2002-03 season and their first winning mark in conference play since 2004-05.
Coach Hoffman came to the Bears after serving as head coach of the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, an NBA Developmental League franchise, and guided the American Basketball Association’s Arkansas Aeros to a 25-2 record in 2006-07. The Aeros led the league in scoring, averaging 133 points per game in Hoffman’s up-tempo style of basketball.
Prior to coaching the Aeros, Coach Hoffman served for two years as an assistant coach at the University of Oklahoma, where the Sooners recruited a class ranked in the top five nationally. Hoffman helped guide the Sooners to the first Big 12 championship in school history en route to a two-year record of 45-17 and back-to-back NCAA appearances in 2004-05 and 2005-06.
He brings a wealth of additional experience to the position, having served as head coach at the University of Texas Pan American from 1999-2004, compiling a 69-76 record at the NCAA Division I school. The highlight of Hoffman’s stint with the Broncs was a 21-9 record during the 2001-02 season.
Coach Hoffman guided UTPA to 12 wins in his first season, which was more than the previous three seasons combined, and posted the school’s best record since the 1993-94 campaign. In 2001-2002, Texas Pan-Am had its first winning season since 1993-94, earned their first tournament victory since 1989-90, and recorded the most home wins in eight seasons. The Broncs were rated for the first time ever in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major poll and Hoffman earned National Independent Coach of the Year honors by CollegeInsider.com.
Challenges are nothing new to him as he turned programs around at Southern Nazarene and Oklahoma Baptist. As the head women’s basketball coach at Southern Nazarene, Coach Hoffman took a team that had never posted a winning season and won the 1989 NAIA National Championship in just his second season with the team. In three seasons at the helm of the Crimson Storm, he compiled an 88-16 record and was named Sooner Athletic Conference, District 9 and NAIA Coach of the Year.
Building on his success at Southern Nazarene, Coach Hoffman took the reins of the men’s program at his alma mater, Oklahoma Baptist, in 1990 and three seasons later guided the Bison to a 34-4 record and berth in the NAIA national championship game. Hoffman was named National Coach of the Year by Basketball Times and also earned Sooner Athletic Conference and District 9 Coach of the Year honors for his efforts. He went on to a record of 243-78 and a winning percentage of .757 in nine seasons at OBU, earning six trips to the NAIA Tournament and making two trips to the championship contest.
He coached 10 All-Americans and 21 All-Conference selections during his tenure with the Bison. Coach Hoffman was named Sooner Athletic Conference Coach of the Year four times. During his nine years at OBU, his teams averaged more than 90 points per game and led the NAIA in field goal percentage seven times. His commitment to academics is just as strong, boasting a player graduation rate of 82 percent.
A standout guard and forward and a 1979 graduate of Oklahoma Baptist, Hoffman is one of just 30 players to score at least 1,000 points in his OBU career.
Hoffman has been married for 37 years to the former Kelli Lumry. The couple has one son, Grant.
The Hoffman Era
2017-18: 19-15 (11-7 SoCon)
2016-17: 15-17 (9-9 SoCon)
2015-16: 19-15 (8-10 SoCon)
2014-15: 19-16 (12-6 SoCon)
2013-14: 27-9 (14-4 A-Sun)
2012-13: 24-12 (14-4 A-Sun)
2011-12: 27-11 (13-5 A-Sun)
2010-11: 15-18 (11-9 A-Sun)
2009-10: 16-17 (10-10 A-Sun)
2008-09: 17-15 (11-9 A-Sun)
Overall: 145-98 (71-43 Conference)
Mercer 72, Stony Brook 70 – March 18, 2015 – CBI First Round
Mercer 78, Duke 71 – March 21, 2014 – NCAA Second Round
Mercer 75, Tennessee 67 – March 20, 2013 – NIT First Round
Jarred Merrill enters his fourth year on the Mercer men’s basketball staff and has played an instrumental role in the continued success of the Bears’ program. During his time at Mercer, the Bears have appeared in two post-season tournaments.
Merrill arrived in Macon with a diverse resume that included three seasons as an assistant coach and seven years of professional basketball experience.
“Jarred played two years for me with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in the NBA D-League and is a very talented young man,” said Mercer head coach Bob Hoffman. “He has great experience at different levels of the pro ranks, which he will be able to bring to recruiting and individual workouts with our guys. His demeanor and attitude about the game will be tremendous for our program and we are thrilled to have him join our staff.”
Merrill spent two seasons as an assistant coach at Southern Nazarene, where he helped guide the Crimson Storm to a third-place finish at the 2014 National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) Tournament. During his time at Southern Nazarene, Merrill also oversaw the development of 2014-15 All-Great American Conference selection and 2013-14 GAC Newcomer of the Year, LB Willis.
The 2005 NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball Player of the Year native starred at Oklahoma Christian, where he holds the all-time scoring record (2,189 points) and ranks second on the school’s all-time rebounding list with 1,120 career boards.
Merrill also set school records for single-season scoring (821 points), free throws made (259) and attempted (311), while owning the top marks in career field goals attempted (1,487) as well career free throws made (650) and attempted (795). He also shares the school record for career double-doubles with 59.
After his career at Oklahoma Christian, Merrill enjoyed a seven-year professional career with stops in Argentina, Bahrain, Egypt, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Saudi Arabia, Spain and South Korea. A member of the Oklahoma Christian Athletic Hall of Fame, Merrill also played professionally in the NBA D-League, the American Basketball Association and the United States Basketball League.
A native of Abilene, Texas and coach at Oklahoma City power Bishop McGuiness High School, he earned a master’s degree in management from Southern Nazarene in 2015 and a bachelor’s degree from Oklahoma Christian in 2005.
Jarred and his wife Candace have three children, a daughter, Jaya, and his two sons, Mannix and Jarred Jr.
Paul Mrozik, who brings extensive coaching experience from the collegiate, professional, international, and high school levels, is in his first season as an assistant coach with the Mercer Bears men’s basketball program.
Mrozik comes to Mercer from Cal Poly, where he served as associate head coach the past two seasons. Prior to that stop, he helped develop Mountain Mission School in Grundy, Va., into a national high school powerhouse.
Consistently ranked among MaxPreps.com’s top 100 high school programs during the 2015-16 season, Mrozik’s team finished 29-8 and had six players who signed National Letters of Intent with Division I programs. In addition to that, Mrozik’s 2018-2019 team contained then a freshman, class of 2019 5 star, Oscar Tshiebwe (committed to West Virginia), and class of 2018 4 star, Florent Thamba (currently a freshman at Baylor).
During his career, Mrozik has coached more than 30 players who went on to play professionally in the U.S. and Europe. He spent the 2011-12 season at Liberty as a graduate assistant, serving under then head coach Dale Layer who was a former assistant with the Bears. After serving as Valparaiso’s Director of Basketball Operations during the 2008-09 season while obtaining his first master’s degree, Mrozik coached professionally overseas for two seasons. He also spent a year scouting professionally in Poland and directed the Warsaw-based Polish Shootout Camp series from 2002-08.
“Coach Mrozik brings us tremendous experience at multiple levels of basketball all over the world, which will expand our opportunity to recruit players that fit the student-athlete profile here at Mercer,” said Mercer Head Coach Bob Hoffman. “We are excited to have him on our staff and look forward to him helping our program grow every day.”
Twice Mrozik has served as the head coach of Athletes in Action teams. He coached a Polish team in Macedonia in 2011 before leading a U.S. squad in Poland in 2012. Among the players he coached on those tours include Miami Heat guard Josh Richardson, former Brooklyn Nets forward Cory Jefferson, and former New York Knicks guard Toure’ Murry.
Coach Mrozik played collegiately at Western Nebraska Community College. He averaged 15.4 points per game as a freshman to help led the team to a top 25 national ranking and appearance in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Tournament. He was team captain as a sophomore and averaged 7.7 points and 4.6 rebounds per outing.
Coach Mrozik and his wife, Gosia, have two children: Filip (14) and Liliana (8).
Philip Pearson, who brings more than 20 years of coaching experience working with multiple Division I programs, is in his first season as a Mercer assistant.
Pearson has two decades plus of professional experience working at Georgia, Alabama, Murray State and Arkansas-Little Rock. The teams he has been associated with at the coaching level have experienced steady and consistent success, having appeared in postseason play 17 times and won six conference championships.
“Coach Pearson is someone I’ve known for a long time,” Mercer Head Coach Bob Hoffman stated. “He is a hard worker and understands the game at a very, very high level. His ability to recruit will be a tremendous asset to our program. Overall, he’s just a good guy and we are thrilled he’s now a part of our program.”
Most recently Pearson was the Associate Head Coach for Mark Fox at the University of Georgia. He joined the Bulldog staff in 2009 as an assistant and was elevated to Associate Head Coach in 2015. Pearson was an assistant at his alma mater, the University of Alabama, from 1998-2009 and was named the Crimson Tide’s interim head coach during the final 13 games of the 2008-09 season, which saw him lead Alabama to a first-round victory over Vanderbilt in the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
Before his coaching stint at Alabama, Pearson served on the coaching staff at Murray State University, where he served in the roles of assistant coach, director of basketball operations, and administrative assistant from 1995-98. During his tenure with MSU, the Racers won three Ohio Valley Conference titles and two OVC Tournament crowns.
Pearson got his coaching start as a graduate assistant at Arkansas-Little Rock under the legendary Wimp Sanderson, his coach at Alabama during his first three seasons playing for the Crimson Tide. Among Pearson’s first players at UALR was former NBA standout and head coach Derek Fisher.
During Pearson’s time on the coaching staff at Alabama, the Crimson Tide won more than 200 games, claimed the 2002 SEC Championship, played in five NCAA Tournaments, reached the NCAA “Elite Eight” in 2004 and earned the program’s first-ever No. 1 ranking in 2002.
As a player at Alabama, the Crimson Tide advanced to four consecutive NCAA Tournaments and won back-to-back SEC Tournament Championships in 1990-91. Pearson was named the team’s recipient of the Paul Bryant Student-Athlete of the Year Award and was also a member of the President’s List Academic Honor Roll.
Pearson had a 16-year association with the Alabama program and played with or coached 17 members of Crimson Tide rosters who went on to play in the NBA.
A native of Montgomery, Ala., Pearson was a standout athlete at Jeff Davis High School. He received his bachelor’s degree in Human Performance from Alabama in 1993 and his master’s degree in Health, Physical Education & Recreation from Murray State in 1997.
Pearson and his wife, Ashley, have three children: Mary Collins, William, and Catherine.
Jason Robey came to Mercer following working for Peak Performance. Prior to Peak, Robey was at Miami where he held the position of Athletic Trainer for the Men’s Basketball team at University of Miami. Prior to working for the UM he was right here in the Carolinas for eight years as the Director of Athletic Training with the Appalachian State Mountaineers. He has been in the sports medicine field since 1997, including 13 years with Division I basketball.
He was the Director of Sports Medicine at Hampton University from 2003-06. Prior to that he served as an athletic trainer at Rivier College in Nashua, N.H., and with a AAA independent professional baseball team. In addition to his collegiate experience, he spent three years working in minor league hockey and two years with semi-professional football.
He holds bachelor’s degrees in physical education and athletic training from the University of Akron, a master’s in exercise science/cardiac rehab from University of Louisiana-Monroe and is a doctoral candidate at Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions (2017). Jason is a NATA-Certified Athletic Trainer, NSCA-Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, and was in the first group of athletic trainers to be certified by the Postural Restoration Institute.
Elvis Kisonas is in his first season as the Director of Basketball Operations for the Mercer men’s program.
Kisonas, a native of Kaunas, Lithuania, joined the Mercer program two years ago as a graduate manager. In that role he assisted the coaching staff in compiling scouting reports, managed the team equipment inventory, and served as director for team camp. He recently completed his Masters in Higher Educational Leadership at Mercer with a 4.0 GPA.
Kisonas moved to North Carolina with his family at the age of eight and grew up in the Charlotte area. He was a standout basketball player at Ardrey Kell High School, where he was a four-year letter winner. He attended Gardner Webb University and worked as the men’s basketball team’s manager under Coach Tim Craft. A double major in Psychology and Sport Management, Kisonas graduated with a 3.95 GPA.
The son of Robertas and Aurika Kisonas, Elvis’ brother Denas is a senior Bio Med major at Wake Forest University.