By Pat Turner
After all, the O’Connor senior has helped the Panthers to the post-season since her freshman year and each experience has been memorable. However, the fourth time has more meaning since this is Hemphill’s final tour in the high school ranks.
With that in mind, Hemphill hopes to make it the best. The fun begins when O’Connor meets MacArthur in the bi-district round Tuesday,
“It’s always so much fun to be in the playoffs,” said Hemphill, a University of Arkansas-Little Rock signee. “I’ve loved it all four years. It’s so nice to go back to the playoffs my senior year. We feel good about this year. We have to stay together and work as a team.”
Hemphill has brought a powerful game to the Panthers since day one, and this year is no different as she leads the Panthers (24-8, 14-4) with a 16.3 scoring average while totaling 210 rebounds (6.6 a game). She crashes the boards with authority and has a smooth turnaround jumper that could be considered her signature shot.”
“I feel like my turnaround jump shot has gotten better,” Hemphill said. “I work on it all the time. I feel much better about my rebounding.”
Hemphill brings more to O’Connor than basketball skills. She sets the example with her preparation and work ethic. As one of the Panthers’ seniors, she’s taken her leadership skills a step higher while serving as a mentor for younger teammates like freshman Carleigh Wenzel, who taken Hemphill’s cue while averaging 12.8 points and 5.4 rebounds.
Other teammates have also shined, including Shannon Bowden, Christina Adenerian and Julia Tapia.
“I try to set an example and be a good leader,” Hemphill said. “I want to make sure everyone is doing what they’re supposed to be doing and that everybody is working together. We have some great players. Carleigh has been a great addition to our team. She is really helpful. I’ve tried to be her mentor. I hope I have created an environment for her.”
O’Connor coach Karmen Wilson sees Hemphill’s presence as an advantage whenever the senior hits the court,
“Nicole has brought so much to our team,” Wilson said. “She’s done that ever since her freshman year. She’s such a hard worker. Every day she brings it. She’s so dynamic on the court. She’s been so good for us.”
A major impact to her success has come on the home front. Her father is NISD assistant athletic director Darryl Hemphill, who played basketball at football at Jefferson before heading to West Texas State (now West Texas A&M) to play football before entering the coaching profession. Her mother Glenda, who also had a coaching stint, was a standout in women’s basketball after leading the local high school (Canyon) to three straight Class 3A championships.
“My parents help me a lot,” Nicole said. “They give me a lot of support. My mom has actually been my coach. It’s great having parents as coaches. They teach you a lot and motivate you. It’s meant a lot to me.”