(WIVB) – In February of her final year of high school, Summer Hemphill has not decided where she will play college basketball. She was the player of the Catholic League of the Year and led Cardinal O’Hara to the Monsignor Martin League title.
However, there were questions about translating her game to the next level. Felicia Leggett Jack, UB Coach, heard her coaches’ doubts. But sometimes, a manager needs to see for himself.
“I went to see her while I was playing in Rochester,” recalls Leggett Jack on Friday. I’m going to take another look at this kid. “It was something that day. Its power matched my eyes. I said,” That’s exactly what we need. “
Leggett told Hemphill coach she was interested. That night, she called to say she accepted Bulls’ offer.
“We got robbed,” said Leggett Jack. “Absolute theft.”
History confirms that the Buffalo native was “scandalously” non-conscript, in the words of her coach. Hemphill, a 6-1 forward, became a regular and made her UB season debut.
Hemphill was a vital part of the UB women’s historic race to Sweet 16 of the NCAA Championship in 2018. As a junior, she averaged 14.5 points and 10.3 rebounds, then made the entire championship team as the Bulls won the MAC title (she earned 16 points and 21 rebounds) In the title match) and won a match in the NCAA Championship.
Last year, as a senior student, Hemphill was preparing to take her game to the next level. She was mentioned in some pre-season National Awards lists and was the pre-season best player at Big 4. Then, in October, she suffered a knee injury that led to her being knocked out for the season.
“I was torn when I was hit for the first time,” Hemphill said Friday. “Special knowledge of how far I have come in the last few years. As summer comes into the graduation season, I have really increased my game level. For a strange accident to happen, it stopped my path and made me slow down and focus on myself and collect myself.”
It was tough, especially when she had to watch from the bench during some of the toughest stretches of Buffalo’s eight Legette-Jack seasons. The Bulls lost six in a row late in the year, their longest losing streak since 2012, before turning up late.
Watching UB struggle at times, with dynamic new student D’Aisha Fair trying to get them to attack, you had to wonder how far this team had gone with their best Hemphill on Earth.
Hemphill said, “Yeah, it was tough, but I was able to use my voice with them. That helped. We were very young last year. They needed to get this experience under their belts.
“Of course, everyone wants to win, but sometimes you have to take some losses in order to understand how to win. Hopefully those lessons they learned last year added to their game this year, and we can become something better,” she said.
The Bulls season ended in a MAC cycle loss in March, two days before the pandemic halted the sport in America. Suddenly, the faculties were far away. Players have been removed. For Hemphill, it has made rehab more bearable. Since she hadn’t played at all, she qualified for an extra year without a medical shirt.
“It was a blessing in disguise,” she said. “A lot of people couldn’t get to the gym. I couldn’t do anything in court anyway. There were a lot of things related to body weight that I had to focus on. So this was a big help.”
During the COVID-19 crisis, Americans have become accustomed to waiting and moving away from their usual routine. This is what rehab requires from an elite athlete’s injury, acceptance of new limitations and the virtues of patience over the slow, grueling climb back to normal.
“I was already four months ahead of not playing,” Hemphill said. “I was kind of used to it. Not being in the gym and around basketball was kind of weird. I’ve always been in the gym or on a stadium or something. It was weird not getting that access.”
You can imagine how it felt this week when UB women got back into practice – albeit, while adhering to Covid protocols – to start preparations for the 2020-21 season. Players have been happy to be back at the place Legette-Jack calls their “haven”.
“Everyone was very happy,” said Hemphill, who turned 22 in August. “It was a big deal for us, just to have everyone there and enjoy the moment, noting that we took something dear to us for granted. Everyone is grateful. The energy is there.”
Legette-Jack will never be accused of taking anything for granted. She said she has the same passion in her 32nd year of coaching as she did the first time. Women can be emotional about the ball line.
It cannot determine how close Hemphill will be to returning 100 percent. Hemphill said she is working towards it. But it is difficult with knee injuries.
“I have no expectation,” said Leggett Jack. “She’s running. Our goal is to get her ready for the inaugural season (November 29). Now, she walks a little, backs off, things like that. They say she’s ahead of schedule. Her mentality is so strong now. She’s really getting it …”
Hemphill says she has grown up a lot over the past year. She had the support of her team-mates, who raised her in difficult times.
She said, “They kept my spirits really high.” “When you go through something harmful, it’s difficult. I understand people who have had horrific injuries in their careers now. I understand their perspective on the game and their personal lives.
“The team, the coaching staff and the UB community have supported me all the time. They are all there for me. Any little progress I make, they call out to me. I am grateful to the family I gained while I was here at UB.”
Her real family is there for her too. Hemphill, daughter of Willie Hemphill and Tina Keitel, is one of eight children. She has four sisters (Justina, Takara, Tahuna, and Tiona) and three brothers (Willie, Justin and Taylon). Justin, who starred in Cardinal O’Hara, is a freshman on the Damon team led by Mike MacDonald.
The Hemphill family are matches in UB. Samar and her mother are members of the Seneca nation. She is the first to enroll in Seneca playing women’s hoops at the University of Buffalo with a full scholarship. Seneca honored her at a special session of the tribal council and a day of proclamation in her honor.
Hemphill said, “I am Seneca through my mother.” “Being a Seneca woman means a lot to me, being Native American and knowing the history of Native Americans in America and being part of a group.
“I try to use my platform to become something. Knowing that I have a lot of support from the Seneca nation means the world to me. They support me in everything I do, and I don’t know where I would be without their support.”
As a Native and African American, Hemphill is sensitive to racial discrimination and affected by the social unrest that gripped the country last summer.
“It’s an uncomfortable topic in the country at the moment,” she said. “But it’s something we should feel comfortable discussing. No one should be treated differently because of their skin color, income, or where they live. I just don’t think it’s fair.”
“As human beings, we have come a long way, but we have a lot of ways to go. I feel like we can’t do anything about it unless we have these conversations that people are not comfortable with. This is the only way we can get past this and get better as a country.” .
Hemphill wants to play basketball professionally after college. She talks a lot with former UB star Sierra Dillard, who is now playing professional football in Finland.
“My main goal now is to be 100 percent healthy, and of course I would like to pursue a professional basketball career. After that, I would definitely consider becoming a police officer. I always wanted to be one. Knowing what is happening today with police officers, I would like to think it is If I become one, I can help foster change. “
Her coach has no problem visualizing her attacking star as a good cop.
Legit Jack said, “Oh my God, yeah.” “She is very serious. Nothing disturbs this child. She is not afraid of anything. Very focused, very conscientious about her surroundings. This is a police officer. This is what she wants to do.”
Meanwhile, Hemphill will be patrolling the Bulls’ lane, helping them try to reach the NCAAs for the fourth time in six years – three in a row with her in the squad. Leggett Jack said Hemphill was working on her three-point shot. If you became skilled at the age of three, you could be MAC MVP of the Year.
“It can jump about 30 inches off the ground, and it’s fast like a deer,” said Leggett Jack. “The only thing she doesn’t have is confidence in herself. That’s why she was still there. I feel like it was all destiny, she and I in touch. How could she be there at that late point?”
Hemphill said her academic grades and exams may have spooked some schools when she was in high school. As a rookie at UB, she sat at games in the fall semester for academic reasons. But she has corrected things and is now finishing her studies in sociology.
She said, “It was tough, but I was able to get back there for the second semester and we ended up winning the MAC Championship, so whatever starts out badly usually shows a rainbow at the end.”