Junior Hillary Hansen and her women’s basketball teammates concluded the season with a 23-4 record, earning the No. 4 seed in this week’s NCAA Division II West Regional. The forward from Pacifica, Calif., currently ranks third on the team in scoring and rebounding. She was a first team Academic All-District 8 selection earlier this year and currently maintains a 3.87 GPA in Political Science. She is also one of four players on the current squad that played in the 2004 NCAA Tournament. After practice on Monday evening, Hansen took some time out to preview the upcoming games in Bellingham, Wash., at the West Regional this weekend.
Q- What was going through your mind when you heard UCSD’s named called during the selection show on Sunday night?
HANSEN— A lot of excitement! I think half-way through the year I realized we were probably going to go to the tournament, but after making it my freshman year, I didn’t really know what it was and how special it was to get there. This time around I was very aware of how rare it is to get to go to the tournament. I was very excited and just really ready to prove something.
Q- What’s the major differences between the 2003-04 team that went to the West Regional and this year’s squad?
HANSEN— Freshman year we were just really happy to have made it. I think we felt really lucky. This year I think we feel like we deserve to go. We’re going to go and prove something. And I think we actually think we can win this year, whereas freshman year we were a little doubtful. I think we’re going into this year’s tournament with a lot more confidence and really ready to prove something.
Q- Do you have any pre-game rituals that you go through before each contest?
HANSEN— I only put my knee braces and ankle braces on outside on the court while everyone else is warming up because I’m always the last one out there because I have to get therapy and all this stuff. So I go out there and just sit on the other bench’s side and put my braces on.
Q- What has it been like to be on the first 20-win team for UCSD at the Division II level?
HANSEN— It’s been fantastic. I had so much fun. I think this is the first year we worked really, really hard to start off, not knowing where we were going to go with it. We ran our butts off, just talking about all-out leaving it on the court, and a lot of us didn’t even know if there was going to be a lot of results with all the hard work. To see it pay off and to see where our team has gotten to now that we’re going into the tournament it feels like this is where we’re supposed to be, we’ve earned this, now it’s just up to what we do in the tournament.
Q- What has been your favorite part about playing for head coach Janell Jones?
HANSEN— Probably just when we’re out on the court and the way she talks to us and gets fired up. You think you’re fired up, but you see her and she’s just as intense and just as passionate as every player out there and I think that’s just irreplaceable. With all that intensity and all that energy you’re going out there with, your coaching is matching that and bringing you past that point. It’s really inspiring and really makes you want to go out there and give it everything you have.
Q- Your teammates all seem to have fun with each other, is there a tight bond with all the girls on the team?
HANSEN— Yes, very much so. We spend a ridiculous amount of time together and I think in a lot of situations that can create some drama, but this has been the first team I’ve been on that’s been completely drama-free. Especially with girls who get really emotional and basketball is involved and there’s so much intensity out there. A lot of teams we play turn it against each other and we use constructive criticism. We bond as a team to get us through hard times and we just love hanging out with each other. I live with four other basketball players and that just shows that even though I spend five hours a day practicing with them, I then go home and live with some of them. I think everyone really enjoys each other’s company and we just have so many different personalities that I think it’s complimentary. Everyone just brings something different to the team and we all appreciate each other.
Q- Describe a typical day in being a student-athlete on this campus?
HANSEN— You have to get up pretty early to finish your classes, because we start practice at 3. So just to get all your classes in before hand you usually don’t get to take that many later classes and you have to schedule eating a couple hours before practice. You’re on a tight schedule and the teachers obviously don’t give you any slack for being athletes. I think, if anything, you have to prove yourself more because you have that jock label. You actually have to establish a relationship with a lot of your professors because we miss a lot of classes. From day one you have to introduce yourself to the professor and say, “hey, I’m on the basketball team, I’m going to be missing a couple of your classes.” And then you have to prove it to them that you’re one of their best students so it’s ok to miss some of their classes. It’s a really rigorous schedule, but I like it.
Q- So you enjoy being a student-athlete at the 7th-ranked Public Institution in America?
HANSEN— Yes, but It’s extremely difficult. I think basketball helps me a little bit because I get home, I eat, and by the time I start my homework it’s already 7 or 8 o’clock, and that’s with me not doing anything else, not watching TV, not chatting with friends. So I know, I get home, it’s 8 o’clock and I have to just start my homework, because if I don’t get sleep for the next day I’m not going to be well-rested and I’m going to play bad. I think if anything it helps me out a little bit because I’m very schedule-oriented and I just do my stuff when it has to be done. Everyone claims that they’re a big procrastinator and I’m going to admit that I am not. I get it done; I try to get it done in advance. If I have a week where I’m not doing very much and I know the next week is going to be packed, I try to get it done a week in advance. I think it’s the only way you can survive at the competitiveness at this school and then still play basketball and be successful at basketball. If you’re not getting any sleep at night you’re not going to play too well.
Q-What are you most looking forward to this weekend?
HANSEN— I think I’m most looking forward to showing everyone what our team can do. I think we’ve done so great so far. We’ve proven to a lot of people that we deserve to be in this tournament. I think we haven’t even tapped into half of our resources and I think people are just going to get really fired up this weekend. Once everyone gets to that environment, and we have a lot of young people who have never been to the tournament and they have no clue how exciting it’s going to be, and I think once we get there and people see how exciting this is going to be a lot of people are going to take their game to the next level. I’m really excited to see how our team deals with that and come together and really perform, because I think we’re going to do really good.
Q-Do you have any plans yet for life after being a student-athlete next year?
HANSEN— No...just kidding. I really want to go to law school, so I’ll be taking the LSATs next October...that’ll be fun. I really want to go into law. I’m looking into taking a double major right now in critical gender studies. I’m really interested in women’s studies and how the law affects gender, so I really want to go into something in that sector. I’m not positive what I want to do. I really like to write too, so I might like to get into journalism, but as like a second business. Gotta aim high.
Q-Was it satisfying to finish near the top of the CCAA standings this year when you were picked to finish 8th in the preseason coaches poll?
HANSEN— I love it. I love when people tell you you’re not going to do well and then you just prove them wrong. A lot of people say, “Oh, you shouldn’t listen to that stuff, just do it for yourself.” But I just love proving people wrong! When they gave us that low of a standing, and it was realistic because we had lost a lot of players and we had a new coach and nobody knew how our program was going, but I think we got completely shafted, and I think we’ve got shafted a lot the past couple of years as far as our standing. It feels amazing. I think that when we go into this tournament and prove what we’re going to do in this tournament we’ll just continue to show them that they were wrong.
Q- You recently posted your career-high in points, scoring 21 last Friday night against San Francisco State. What are the keys to your success on the court?
HANSEN— I work really well when they play in your face defense because I like to drive a lot and I’m a very physical player. So the more physical the other team is, I feed off of that. The way our team moves, when we pass the ball around a lot, I feel like I succeed a lot more off of this. You get the defenses moving and people are running out at you, and that opens up a lot of lanes for me to drive. I think the more intense the game, I can get into a flow a lot better. A lot of passing really helps me out a lot.
Q- What are the keys to the team’s success?
HANSEN— First of all, we move the ball a lot. Obviously, we have some huge offensive threats. Like Leora Juster, you can pass the ball and she’ll make a shot, and we have Michelle Osier and Briana Hinga who get so many rebounds and so many offensive things. We have people who will definitely do what they do best and you can count on that every game. But as far as what makes the difference in winning the game is when we move the ball around and get everybody involved. We might have a couple people who are shining, but then everyone else is doing there job, everyone is contributing offensively and defensively. I think our biggest strength as a team is team defense, putting pressure on the ball and getting steals. The person next toy u cuts their person off at the baseline and you end up getting the steal. Working as a team to stop the other team.