By Jay Cook |
Hannah Scanlan is more than just the best player the Rumson-Fair Haven girls basketball team puts on the floor each week.
While averaging a double-double in the heart of her senior season (21.8 PPG and 12.2 RPG), and already one of the Shore Conference’s best girls hoops players, those numbers are hardly the only thing that makes this team captain unique.
“W ài lánqiú,” Scanlan said before a 6 p.m. practice. “That means ‘I love basketball’ in Chinese.”
She has studied the difficult language since her freshman year at RFH, where she enrolled after growing up and playing sports in Colts Neck through her pre-high school years.
Scanlan also has some experience as a quarterback and at first base, surprisingly enough.
“All my friends that I played flag football with all played Little League baseball, and I never really played softball at that age,” she said. “I was a tomboy when I was younger, so I ended up playing baseball too.”
A former competitive swimmer and soccer player, the 6’1” power for ward made the decision to focus on basketball over lacrosse in the seventh grade.
Her love for basketball goes way back to the time she spent living in Sydney, Australia, where she celebrated her 4th birthday. It’s around that age where she fell in love with the sport, and has played it year round ever since.
Though not dressed in red, white and blue supporting her beloved Super Bowl-winning New England Patriots, Scanlan was proud to profess her affection for Boston-area sports teams; her dad, Tom lived in Massachusetts earlier in his life.
Her basketball idol also called Boston home from 1979-1992, a tall player who sported signature light-blond hair.
“For basketball, it was probably Larry Bird,” Scanlan said of her influences. “I always thought he was so dominant inside and outside the paint, and that’s what I thrive to be like.”
While clearly a talented player last year in her junior campaign, Scanlan has turned her game up big-time, shattering those numbers.
She has more than three times the number of steals (8-26), almost seven times the number of blocks (7-50), almost eight times the number of assists (5-39) and about 170 more rebounds compared to 2016.
Constantly practicing throughout the year, Scanlan has called the talent-laden, Neptune-based Hoop Group her home training court since the sixth grade.
In her mind, sharpening steel with steel is what has made her progress into a more-refined player.
“It’s the idea that a bunch of pretty good athletes train there, so if I want to make myself better, I’ll go train with better athletes,” she said.
It also works well for her that first-year head coach Dave Callahan employs a style of play well-suited for Scanlan’s athletic ability.
“I love to run the floor. If we want to set up an offense, I definitely like to post up and get to the basket,” she said. “I think driving to the basket and getting fouls is the style of play I like over shooting threes – I like to go get it and rebound.”
That is also a playing style that Scanlan will bring with her when she begins her college basketball career next season at Bryant University in Rhode Island, whom she officially signed with on Nov. 8.
Former RFH teammate and best friend Stephanie Lesko is also a Bryant Bulldog, one of the key bargaining chips for Scanlan while deciding where to play the next four years.
Planning to major in a business-related field, she noted that a possible study-abroad semester intrigued her.
“Bryant offers a semester over in Australia, so if I could do international business over there or play overseas, that’s definitely something I would want to do,” she said.
Although that is still months away, Scanlan is locked in and ready for a tough second half of the season. Callahan has guided the RFH Lady Bulldogs to a dominant 16-3 record so far, with their only blemishes coming from powerhouses Saint John Vianney, Long Island Lutheran and Manasquan High School.
The schedule is February is no joke – the long-awaited rematch with SJV is on Thursday, and the regular season will end with a tough game against Red Bank Catholic. Both of those games are on the road.
While there’s no doubt each of those will provide challenges for the RFH girls hoops team, motivation from Callahan has set a path for the team.
“Our coach told us he wants to win it all – the Tournament of Champions, the Shore Conference, our division,” Scanlan said. “It was a tough loss against SJV, but that’s going to give us momentum and determination to win other games.”
This article was first published in the Feb. 9-16, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times. Subscribe to the newspaper for convenient home delivery.
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