Merritt Hempe has become one of the the Lady Bulldogs' best rebounders.
Feb. 26, 2013
ATHENS---Adjusting to playing college basketball is a difficult task, but to do it while battling a nagging injury is even tougher. This, however, has been the challenge that the Georgia Lady Bulldogs’ freshman forward Merritt Hempe has faced.
Hempe injured her foot early in the season; the injury limited both her playing and practice time. Head coach Andy Landers said that without her injury, Hempe could have made an even bigger impact on the Lady Bulldogs program than she already has.
“The regret is that she got injured because she was really on a good track. She was way out ahead of the curve as a freshman early in preseason practice and early in the season,” Landers said. “I think she was on course to be our best rebounder, I think she probably still is. She’s got a nice skill set, she can shoot it from three, she can post inside, she is an excellent rebounder and is just going to get better.”
Despite missing four games due to her ailment, the freshman from Fredericksburg, VA., said that her freshman season has exceeded all her preseason expectations.
“For me it’s been a completely new and different experience, it’s been great. I’ve learned so much, more than I ever thought I could learn about basketball,” Hempe said. “I feel like my IQ has increased just because of being around players that are smart and understand the game. You didn’t always have that in high school so being around all these elite players and coach who know the game so well that’s the biggest part.”
Currently averaging 4.0 points a game and 3.4 rebounds, Hempe is one member of the Lady Bulldogs promising freshman class. Her class includes SEC freshman of the week Shacobia Barbee, Tiaria Griffin , Marjorie Butler and Kaelyn Causwell. Hempe said that a large part of her success and her freshman teammates has been the role of the Lady Bulldogs seven senior players.
“They just embraced every one of us, they really did a great job setting an example for us from day one,” Hempe said. “Before preseason practice we saw how hard they worked. We saw that this is what we’re coming into and we don’t have a choice but to work this hard too.”
One of those seniors, forward Jasmine Hassell, praised Hempe for the skill set she has brought to the Lady Bulldogs, as well as saying she believes Hempe is set for a very successful four years in Athens.
“She’s brought height and she’s brought a lot of fundamental stuff. She’s a great rebounder, for a while she was our best rebounder, and I admire that,” Hassell said. “She got hurt, but she fought through it and I think she’s a very tough kid. She has a passion and she’s a great player that I enjoy playing with. I think she’s got a bright future.”
While Hassell recognized the freshman’s potential for future season, Landers was keen to focus on the improvements he wants to see from Hempe over the course of the final weeks of the 2013 season.
“I’d like for her to get more minutes, I’d like for her minutes to be more productive, she’s got to stop fouling, that’s the one bad habit she has, and she has got to move her feet and not her hands. She’s reaching in and fouling but that’s inexperience that she would have gotten early had she not been hurt,” Landers said. “I understand where it comes from but we’ve got to get over it now.”
When asked about the opportunity to play for Landers Hempe said that, like her freshman season, the experience had been better than she could have hoped for.
“He’s a huge reason I’m here and it’s honestly so great to play for him, it’s such an amazing opportunity to play for someone like him who cares so much about every player and is so intense and wants you to be the best player you can be,” Hempe said. “It’s an amazing opportunity.”