Thursday, November 18, 2010

Hampton flourishes, injuries and all

You know how Hampton's victory over JMU opened a lot of folks' eyes to the idea that, hey, those guys must be pretty good?

They're even better than you think.

The Lady Pirates prevailed in Harrisonburg without one of their best players. Guard Bernadette Fortune, the former Kempsville High star and a preseason second-team All-MEAC pick, sat out the game with a foot injury. To be fair, the Dukes were hampered by injuries as well. But the fact that Hampton was shorthanded as well received scant attention (including from us, to be frank).

Three nights later at South Dakota State, more adversity hit when guard Jericka Jenkins, the other half of Hampton's "Mighty Mite" backcourt, went down with an ankle injury. While forward Quanneisha Perry is the preseason MEAC Player of the Year, Hampton coach David Six calls the heady Jenkins the team's most important player. She's the player Six assigned to JMU star Dawn Evans. Evans finished with 25 points but hit only 8 of 28 field goals.

The Lady Pirates were leading the Jackrabbits at the time of Jenkins' injury; they continued to make SDSU sweat before bowing 76-64.

Fortune tried to give it a go against the Jackrabbits but was severely limited. Six said Fortune will probably give playing another shot but could end up facing surgery. Jenkins will be out indefinitely.

The injuries will severely test Hampton's depth. But this is nothing new for the Lady Pirates, who played without two starters throughout much of the non-conference season last year.

"We can't make any excuses," he said. "We've just got to move on."

Six expects the Lady Pirates will receive a boost in the frontcourt with the addition of 6-0 senior Aaryn Harrison, a four-year member of Hampton's volleyball team. "She's very athletic," Six said. "She's definitely going to help us."

Whatever happens this season, Hampton's future seems bright given the athletic six-player class committed to become Lady Pirates in 2011. The group includes:

Candace Brown, 5-9 G, Hampton High
A second-team All-Peninsula District pick who formerly played for Six at Hampton High. "She's an athletic kid with a powerful body," Six said.

Kenia Cole, 5-6 G, Paint Branch High (Md.)
Another in a line of quality guards from Paint Branch, a program that has also produced JMU's Tarik Hislop and Maryland signee Brene Moseley.

Benee Glanton, 6-3 C, Jefferson (Fla.)
"A big body who runs the floor well. Has tremendous potential and a high basketball IQ," Six said.

In addition, from the junior-college ranks the Lady Pirates will welcome former Hampton High star Alyssa Bennett, a 6-2 forward; ex-Heritage High standout Evany Dickerson, a 5-5 point guard; and 6-2 forward Ariel Phelps from Tallwood High by way of Louisburg College.

"My goal is to become the first MEAC team (strong enough) to get an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament," Six said. "I know it's a lofty goal. But I can't think any other way."

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