Feb. 6, 2012
WEST POINT, N.Y. - With a hard fought 66-64 victory over Lehigh Sunday, Army women's basketball completed the first half of its Patriot League schedule with a 4-3 record.
This year's squad is young, with only one senior in its top 10 scorers, and the group has had many ups and downs as its 10-12 overall record will attest, but the team is highly competitive and has played to single-digit finals (six games by three points or less) in all of its Patriot League games.
One up and coming player who is making big strides is sophomore guard/forward Jen Hazlett. Hazlett continued her great play against second-place Lehigh with 17 points and a team-high eight rebounds and four assists to help Army gain a tie for third place with Navy and Holy Cross.
For the season, Hazlett is second in team scoring with 13.1 points per game, leads the team in rebounding (7.6 rebounds per game) and has the most assists at 42 while playing the most minutes. It's quite a leap from her freshman year where she played half the minutes per game while only scoring 2.9 ppg and adding 2.6 rpg.
The Syracuse, Utah, native sat down with the Pointer View to discuss the team's progress, how she has improved this year and how she has formed a one-two scoring punch with junior guard Anna Simmers.
Pointer View: The team is 4-3 after seven Patriot League games ... talk about the team's performance through the first half of the PL schedule and where you feel the team stands at this time?
Jen Hazlett: "I think so far we've done a really great job. First of all, we don't give up when we fall far behind like we did against Holy Cross, where we were down by 13 with about eight minutes left, and we came back to draw close and could have won it. It just seems there have been so many situations this year where it's been close games-three points, two points or one point-and I hope there's a point where we can get over that hump and push through (to win all of them)."
PV: The team has played all single-digit games within the conference, with all three losses being three points or less ... with that in mind, talk about the competitiveness of this squad, and, the ability, whether you win or lose, to always play close, tight games?
JH: "We go to West Point, so we're all competitive naturally. We're a scrappy little team when it comes to being down by a lot and we're not going to give up. We know we can come back in situations like that, and for the most part we have, but there are some games we haven't been able to finish."
PV: How do you think all these close games will prepare you for the PL postseason?
JH: "I don't know of a better way to prepare for the postseason then what we've done early in the season. When we get into the postseason and we're in a close, tight game, I think we're going to come out with the win because we've had so much experience with close games."
PV: You've taken off this season, leading the team in minutes played, rebounds, assists and second in points ... talk about your play and how you've grown as a player this year?
JH: "Last year, I definitely lacked confidence. This year, I just felt like I needed to be more of a leader on the floor. We have great captains and they're a great example for all of us. I knew I would be playing a lot more minutes this season, so I worked really hard in the off season and I decided to become more of a vocal leader on the court.
"I did more shooting and strength training (during the summer). I've gained 35 pounds (through strength training and eating right) since coming to West Point."
PV: Within conference games, you've started half at guard (the three) and half at forward ... talk about being versatile enough to play different positions?
JH: "We basically go off (Coach Dave Magarity's) feeling that night. If he wants to put me at forward to add more strength up front, I'll do that, or if he wants me to make more shots (from the guard position) I'll do that, too.
"I like to rebound and I like to put up points. I feel like I'm an offensive type player, but I'll do whatever the coaches need me to do because I feel like I'm not a one dimensional player-I like to do everything."
PV: Which position do you think brings out the best in your abilities?
JH: "I think the three position (guard) brings out the best in me. I just like shooting; it's one of my favorite things to do. But, when I need to drive to the basket, I think I'm OK at that.
"Although Anna (Simmers) is the best person (on the team) at driving to the basket and making shots, but I think I can create a little bit sometimes. However, rebounding is a big thing for a wing guard; the three of us need to be crashing (the basket) all the time.
"I feel the three (guard) needs to be the most versatile player on the floor (and I fit that description)."
PV: What strengths do you bring to the team?
JH: "Definitely, for me, it's rebounding. I feel like the less chances the other team has at getting second or third opportunities of getting baskets, it can win a game, and rebounding is probably one of the most important things in a basketball game. I'm pretty aggressive when it comes to that-I want that ball. If somebody is shooting it, I'm going to go get it and that's the kind of mentality I have and I don't really think about it while playing-rebounding is a good thing."
PV: You didn't play as much last year as a freshman, but what did you take out of last season that helped you become one of the top performers this year?
JH: "That nothing is going to be handed to you. I think I came out of high school with the mentality that if I continue to keep doing what I did in high school that everything was going to be fine, but that's not the case because it's a lot different in college than in high school.
"Last year, I learned a lot from Erin Anthony ... she worked so hard every day and she was a great leader on and off the court and a great person all around. She is somebody I look up too."
PV: How important is it to have someone, a team leader, who pushes herself above and beyond to get better, and how much does that push your own drive to get better?
JH: "I don't see any other way of getting better unless you push yourself beyond the limit. I definitely learned that in the past year during workouts, especially offseason workouts - those are no joke. You learn to push yourself past the limit and I think that's what helped me become a lot better."
PV: Another player, Anna Simmers, has made big strides this year, so talk about her game and how much she has improved?
JH: "She is playing amazing right now. She is the biggest threat in the Patriot League. She can do everything. She works so hard and she is so quick. She can shoot with her left hand and right hand; it really is unbelievable to watch her play."
PV: Anna and you mesh well together to form a good 1-2 punch scoring, so how much does she take pressure off of you because of her play/scoring ability?
JH: "She takes a ton of pressure off of me. If I'm struggling or Molly (Yardley) is struggling or (Olivia) Schretzman is struggling, Anna is definitely going to be the one to step up and she's proven that this year for sure. If we're struggling offensively, we'll give the ball to Anna and say 'go score for us and get us back on track,' and she'll do it - she's not afraid."
PV: What has been your best game in your Army career so far?
JH: "Probably the Hawaii game. I didn't do anything in the first half, I was just struggling. But, in the second half, Coach (Colleen) Mullen told me a fake story and I believed it and it sparked me to score 19 points. We ended up winning a close game. I scored all 19 points in the second half.
"(Mullen) said she went 0-for in the first half and then scored 26 points in the second half against Michigan or Michigan State, and it was the best game of her career. I was like 'if you can score 26 against Michigan in the second half, I can score whatever right now against Hawaii.' Actually, I think she scored more like 12 points to help her team, but it still helped motivate me."
PV: What has been a great team moment?
JH: "Beating Navy was great last year. Beating Navy on their court is awesome-it's the best feeling especially when they are all quiet.
"However, I think beating Hawaii was a better moment for our team-it was on Branch Night. We had to come back in the game and won a close one. We went back to the locker room all happy and excited, and then the firsties all opened their branch (envelopes) ... it was a lot of fun (to see them get their branches) and it brought our team closer together."