Summer Hemphill will live the Division I dream, yet the Cardinal O’Hara senior isn’t in any rush to go to college just yet.
She likes playing for the Hawks, The News’ No. 1 Large School girls basketball team. She likes being a role model for her younger teammates, setting positive examples for them whether it’s by putting in the work on the court or the classroom.
Though she won’t be at O’Hara next year, Hemphill will be close enough where she can still feel a part of that family while getting acclimated to her new basketball kin.
Hemphill has committed to continue her career at the University at Buffalo and is expected to sign her letter of intent in the spring. She becomes the third O’Hara player in as many seasons to earn either a Division I or II scholarship.
Hemphill had a good reason for picking UB over hard-charging Robert Morris, Akron, Niagara and St. Francis (Pa.).
“It’s home,” said Hemphill, who leads the Hawks in points per game (14.9), rebounds per game (7.3) and blocks per game (2.5). “When I went there for an official visit, I liked the team and the coaching staff.”
“I think she has a chance to go there and contribute as a freshman, which a lot of kids don’t get a chance to do,” Hawks coach Nick O’Neal said. “Coming up now through the junior, sophomore and even freshmen classes” in Western New York “there are going to be a bunch of kids from public and Catholic schools who are going to be Division I or II athletes.”
Two of them will line up against the 6-foot-1 Hemphill on Wednesday night when News No. 1 Large School Cardinal O’Hara (15-2, 4-0) hosts second-ranked Sacred Heart in a Monsignor Martin Association girls basketball contest at 6. The Sharks (12-2, 4-0) feature a pair of Division I signees in 6-2 senior center Sarah Young (St. Bonaventure) and 6-1 senior guard/forward Kathleen Ryan (Brown). Young comes into the game three points shy of 1,000 for her career.
Each team will enter the contest unbeaten in the league and the winner could very well end up representing the Monsignor Martin Association in Class AA during the New York State Catholic High School Athletic Association playoffs because the regular-season champion earns the league’s postseason berth in the state’s most competitive bracket.
This is the only regular-season league game between the teams but it is their second meeting of the season. O’Hara (15-2, 4-0) earned a 63-46 victory at Sacred Heart last month in a nonleague game.
Despite last month’s win, the Hawks know they have to play even better if they want to keep their flawless league record intact.
“Everyone wants to beat O’Hara because we’re No. 1,” said Hemphill. “They’re going to come back at us better prepared than the first time in the beginning of the season. They’ll come back with more challenges for us and play us tougher,” Hemphill said.
Sacred Heart coach Debbie Laux said cutting down on turnovers will be key if the Sharks are to end a three-game losing streak to the Hawks. The last victory in the series for Sacred Heart came in the 2013 Monsignor Martin playoff final.
“It’s always a great matchup when you have 1 playing 2,” Laux said. “Playing the Division I recruits,” against each other “adds to it. … We’ve had this game circled on our calendar since the schedule came out. We’re definitely geared up.”
So are the Hawks.