Monday, January 21, 2008

Substance over Style

By Will Bryan '08

Danielle Hemerka is not a flashy player. In fact, if you look in your library’s thesaurus, Hemerka’s name comes up as item one as the antonym of flashy.

So while Stephen “cocked hand/sliding across midcourt/making everyone buy his jersey” Curry was continuing to assault the record books with a 29 point performance at Western Carolina, Hemerka did some assaulting of her own down I-40 in Elon.

I decided to make this trip to Elon with a friend who knows a little a bit about breaking records: women’s soccer goalie Bevin English, she of the all-time shutout record (which she set against Elon, I might add). When we arrived at the gym, we were surprised. Well yeah, of course, we all have heard how tiny it is…but even more, we found that it was mostly populated by fans clad in red and black. Davidson was 4-2 and 10-7 heading into the game, but their loyal fanbase knew that as a road game in the Southern Conference, this one was as important as any, more important than some.

The overall tone of the game was defined by runs of smooth execution, interwoven with periods of languid play. But I came to realize, that throughout the rollercoaster ride of Davidson extending a lead and then letting Elon cut back into it, Hemerka always had the steady hand.

The greatest thing about Hemerka is that she defies every attempt at pigeonholing. She’s tough as nails and strong as all get out, but her play is smooth. She can shoot from anywhere on the court and yet can always be found in the middle of the rebounding scrum, skying high for the loose ball. She controls her dribble, finds teammates in space and forces turnovers all over the court.

On this night, she became the 11th Davidson player all-time to score 1,000 points for a career. She hit the clinching shot by fading away at the top of the key after hitting layups on the immediately preceding possessions. As soon as she hit it, the Davidson contingent went nuts. Hemerka let her happiness shine through as she ran back on defense with a gigantic smile on her face. She proceeded to shut down her assignment, secure yet another rebound and pick up an assist or two before Coach Watts took her out to a standing ovation.

The whole situation seemed fitting for a four-year player who has contributed to the Davidson women’s basketball program in every way she knows how since 2004. Hemerka is now 8th all-time in threes, 5th all-time in steals, 12th all-time in assists, 4th all-time in rebounds and 11th all-time in points. No Wildcat has ever put up the wide range of statistics that Hemerka has accrued over four years.

Hemerka had family and friends on hand Monday night when she reached her 1,000th point. She had two little girls cheering her name from the first row even as they were wearing the jerseys of her teammates. And she secured her fifth career double-double by diving for a rebound with the game in hand and the clock ticking away. She was all smiles.


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