By Briana Florez
Panther Press sat down with Lady Panther varsity basketball team member Kendall Hunter on the heels of the team’s (32-2) 2015 Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) Championship and the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association (VISAA) Division I State Championship. The WCAC championship was the Lady Panthers’ second consecutive title, and the VISAA championship was the team’s ninth straight Virginia State title.
In addition, Hunter was selected for All-WCAC Honors:
First Team: Jonquanae Cole and Jasmine Whitney
Second Team: Kendall Hunter
Third Team: Kayla Meador
HM: Raven James and Kate Klimkiewicz
WCAC Coach of the Year: Scott Allen
When did you first start playing basketball?
KH: I started playing when I was in third grade. I wanted to try another sport and my parents were hesitant because they thought it would be too physical. I started out playing in the house league for my neighbor who coached his daughter, and I ended up loving it!
Is there anyone who inspired you to play, or has always been one of your main supporters?
KH: This sounds cliche, but I always looked up to Michael Jordan because he’s like the “God” of basketball. I also checked out this book in elementary school about WNBA players. It’s called WNBA Superstars by Molly Jackel. It talked a lot about Lisa Leslie and Rebecca Lobo, which made me first dream about being in the WNBA. My parents have also been some of my main supporters because they always pushed me to practice my skills, and drove me everywhere I needed to be, payed for personal trainers and gear, (etc.). Also Mr. Florez, your dad, has also been one of my main supporters because he came to all my games and always wanted me to train with him.
If you could choose one great memory from any game at PVI, what would that be?
KH: My favorite memory would definitely have to be winning the WCAC Championship last year. It was a really tight game and we were down by about ten at halftime. It was nerve racking because it was the first time PVI Girls basketball had ever made it to the WCAC finals, and the year before we had lost by about forty I think in the semi-finals. With about twenty seconds left in the game we were up by about three and on offense. We ran this play where we just run around with no meaning to totally confuse the defense. It’s called “crazy”. St. John’s fouled us and we went to shoot ( I think we only made one so we were up by four). Then with about five seconds left, St. Johns had the ball at the other side of the floor, opposite their basket. They shot from half court and it was SO close to going in. When we won, the VI MAN stormed the court and I ended up on the VERY BOTTOM (UNDER NAE AND COACH ALLEN) of the dog pile. It was hilarious, but so much fun!
What do you think you bring to the court and your team talent wise?
KH: Talent wise, I think I bring the element of surprise on offense because I’m not one of the leading scorers or anything, so at times I throw people off by scoring a lot in a short period of time. I’m also left handed and really good at ripping the ball and driving to the basket. It really throws the defense off because they’re expecting me to be right handed, so they force me to drive left. Since it’s my strong hand it just backfires at them.
What made you choose IUP? Were you thinking about any other schools? Also, what will you be studying next year?
KH: I chose IUP because it was one of the schools that was very interested in me, and really nice. The coaching staff called me almost twice a week all summer and for the beginning of the school year. When I visited the school, I fell in love with the environment. Everyone was really welcoming and fun to be around. It’s also weird because I had never heard of IUP until they started recruiting me, but as soon as I did almost everyone I talked to had heard about it and said great things! I was also looking at a few other schools, mostly southern schools such as Coastal Carolina, Barry University, College of Charleston, Mars Hill, Loyola. The only other school I was seriously thinking about other than IUP was American University. As of now, I’m not positive about what I will study next year but I am looking into criminology and undeclared Health and Human Services.
What do you like most about playing at PVI?
KH: The thing I like most about playing at PVI is my team. We have been through so much together, good and bad. They’re a great group of girls and like my second family. We have a lot of fun together and they always have my back.
What advice do you have for younger players?
KH: My advice for the younger players is to not be so hard on themselves. Sometimes it can be really stressful playing in a competitive high school basketball environment. I would also tell them to have fun and don’t take it for granted, because it goes by fast!
How have you grown as a player since freshman year?
KH: I think I have grown a lot since freshman year. I’ve improved my skills as well as become more confident in my game. I’m now one of the team leaders who are looked up to, just like I looked up to the captains when I was a freshman.
What was it like to win another WCAC Championship and VISAA State Championship title?
KH: It was an amazing feeling of course, especially because we all worked so hard for it. This season has been great. This is definitely one of the best teams I have ever been on!
At presstime, Hunter was named VISAA Division I First Team-All State and Player of the Year.