HAMPTON -- After her remarkable four-year ride at Hampton ended with a loss to Stanford in the first round of the
, HU senior point guard Jericka
fielded the usual pat-on-the-back comments from family and friends.
"All good things end."
"Keep your head up."
Then her cell phone buzzed with a text message from Beverly Lockett, her high school basketball coach in Lancaster, Texas.
Lockett sent a quote fromDr. Seuss: "Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened."
Jenkins and the Lady
have plenty to smile about.
HU won a Division I school-record 26 games in 2011-12, its second regular-seasonMid-Eastern Athletic Conferencechampionship and its third consecutive
tournament title. That booked the Lady Pirates their third NCAA tournament trip in a row, and though HU's seed – 16 – and result – a 73-51 loss to the No. 2 team in the nation – were disappointments, its season remains one to remember.
Jenkins led the Lady Pirates (26-5) with 13.8 points per game and led the nation for a chunk of the season with nearly eight assists per game. (Her final average of 7.1 assists ranks fifth.) A criminal justice major with a 3.71 GPA that earned her third-team Capital One academic all-American honors, Jenkins became the 22
player in program history to score 1,000 career points, the second to record 500 career assists, and the first to earn Associated Press All-American recognition with last season's honorable mention nod.
"We worked hard to build a good team and leave a great legacy for this school," said Jenkins, one of three senior starters who combined to average 37.3 of HU's 65 points per game. "I just wanted to play basketball. I didn't think I was going to rewrite or change a lot of records."
But as much as HU and coach David Six will miss Jenkins, guard Choicetta McMillian (13
in the nation with 2.8 made 3-pointers per game) and forward Melanie Warner, the senior trio isn't leaving the Lady Pirates' cupboard bare.
HU returns two talented forwards in sophomore Alyssa Bennett, who averaged 8.2 points and 5.7 rebounds and scored a team-high 19 points against Stanford, and Keiara Avant, who averaged 7.7 points and eight rebounds. Sophomore guard Nicole Hamilton added 6.2 points per game and shot 32 percent from 3-point range.
The Lady Pirates' incoming recruiting class features Sade King, a point guard from Mount Vernon (N.Y.) who's even smaller than the 5-foot-4 Jenkins but has been a varsity player since seventh grade and scored her 1,000
point this past season. Blake Jenkins, a 5-10 forward out of Clarksville, Tenn., and Ryan Jordan, a 5-11 guard out of
High in northern Virginia, have also already signed with HU.
"These kids are more athletic," Six said. " … We'll look much different, but things won't change in terms of you're still going to have to play defense, you'll still have to take care of the ball, and you'll still have to play defense. Those things won't change."
What has changed, after three straight
appearances, is HU's national profile. Gesturing to a stack of highlight DVDs on his desk, Six said, "We used to call these the 'Get-You-Fired' tapes, because people would send us (film saying) 'I'm a 5-foot-2 power forward,' " to which Six and his staff would respond, " 'Man, get outta here. You're gonna get us fired.'
"But now when we get these tapes, there are kids that can really play."
Six, 71-24 in three seasons at HU, hopes such athletes enable him to keep building a program and turning heads, even as other MEAC programs ascend around him. Howard (24-9) returns three of its top four scorers from a team that lost 59-56 in overtime to Virginia in the WNIT, while Florida A&M (22-8) and
(20-12) also had 20-win seasons in 2011-12.