Twelve days.That’s how long it took before senior Kamesha Hairston understood how different this season was going to be for her and the women’s basketball team.
Playing in the shadow of former all-American Candice Dupree, Hairston was Temple’s second-best scorer each of the last two seasons.
She averaged 21.6 points in the team’s first five games of this season, which were played over the period of a dozen days.
After the fifth game, a 71-65 loss to Virginia, Hairston said she realized how difficult it is to be the No. 1 scoring option.
“They’re beating the mess out of me,” Hairston said, referring to how opposing teams have defended her this season.
“They become really, really physical with you,” she continued. “That’s tough. It really takes a toll on your body. It’s still tough for me now. But, you know, if this is what you ask for, then you have to step up to the challenge.”
So far, Hairston willingly has stepped up to the challenge, leading the Owls to a 16-5 overall record and a 6-0 mark in the Atlantic Ten Conference.
The 6-foot forward leads the A-10 in scoring and rebounding, posting 21.1 points per game and pulling down 9.4 boards per contest.
Hairston, who tops the Owls in scoring, rebounding, free-throw attempts (113) and free-throw percentage (.805), has been named A-10 Player of the Week five times.
The two-year captain has accumulated nine double-doubles. She played 45 minutes and scored a career-high 34 points in an overtime win at Florida Jan. 2. Coach Dawn Staley has watched Hair ston progress from a freshman who only played 17 minutes per game in her first year, to a three-year starter who was twice selected to the A-10 All Defensive Team.
“You would like to see all your players come in and develop like she has,” Staley said. “I think she’s come in with a certain competitiveness, a certain bravado to not be second to anybody. I think that’s half the battle to have the attitude
and to put the effort [in] behind that.”
Hairston entered the season as the Owls’ most experience player after Dupree,
Jennifer Owens and Khadija Bowens
During the offseason, Hairston said she focused on physically and mentally preparing herself for her new leadership role. She said she talked to her parents often and spent a lot of time “just working
“Every aspect of me: basketball, patience, anything you can think about,” Hairston said. “I had to work on myself. I had to get myself right before I could come in and really lead the team like I need to.”
One of Hairston’s many responsibilities
as the team leader is to help younger players develop. Freshman guard LaKeisha Eaddy said Hairston has helped her adjust to the college level. “Me and Kamesha are real close,” Eaddy said last month after scoring a career-high 20 points in Temple’s 68-66 win over Villanova. “She’s like a mentor to me.”
Hairston said she made an effort in previous seasons to observe the leadership
qualities of players like former Rutgers
star Cappie Pondexter and former Owls forward Ari Moore. Hairston and Moore were teammates for two seasons between 2003 and 2005.”Ari was a vocal leader,” Hairston said. “She really had the attention of everyone on our team and last year I missed it [and] this year I miss it. She talks to me a lot and tells me I have to be more vocal with the players and tell them what [I] want.”
Hairston said she wants the Owls to be successful once the calendar hits March. She said scoring 20 points per game is worthless if it’s not helping the team win.
“I feel like if I do reach that mark, we have a chance to be successful,” Hairston
said. “But reaching it alone without another double-digit scorer … that doesn’t mean anything. You lose. So it doesn’t matter.”
The individual numbers Hairston is putting up this season will matter once the 2007 WNBA Draft commences in April. Staley, a former three-time WNBA all-star, said Hairston has the potential to be successful
at the next level.
“I think she’s primed to do well in the WNBA,” Staley said. “She’s scoring, she’s aggressive, she’s experienced and I think she’s put herself in a position to captain our ship and she’s doing a pretty good job of it.”
Although Hairston said she thinks her chances of making the WNBA are high, she said she prefers not to dwell on the future at this point.
“I really try not to focus on that because
it’s emotional for me to know that I’m leaving,” Hairston said with a laugh. “But I just try not to focus on that. I just want to win here before I go anywhere else.
That’s important to me.”
TEMPLE 78, ST. JOESPH’S 71, OT
Hairston scored 26 points to lead the Owls to a 78-71 overtime victory over Saint Joseph’s Sunday at Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse.
Hairston, who also pulled down 13 rebounds, secured her ninth double-double of the season. The senior forward hit a jumper from just inside the free throw line to tie the game at 65-65 with 30.8 seconds left.
The Hawks failed to score on their last possession and the Owls shot 11-of-12 from the free-throw line in overtime to seal the victory.
Lady Comfort finished with 23 points and nine rebounds. Fatima Maddox added 10 points.
Tyson McCloud can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.