By: Steve Miller – Asst. Sports Editor
Running up and down the court, receiving play calls, relaying instructions to her team, setting the tempo of the game and leading Dayton’s women’s basketball team to victory are all just part of life for the University of Dayton’s Andrea Hoover, the senior guard from Bellbrook, Ohio.
Growing up in the Dayton area, Hoover knew from a young age that this university’s atmosphere was a warm environment. “My parents used to ask me that if I didn’t play basketball [in college], if I’d want to come to UD,” Hoover said in a recent interview, “and I really liked the campus here, so it appealed to me both as a student and as an athlete.”
But when it came time to look at schools, Hoover did not have to question whether she’d play basketball or not.
“It was her junior year in high school and we got on her early,” Dayton’s head coach Jim Jabir said, adding that a lot of schools did not even know about her while he was heavily pursuing his recruit.
“The summer after she committed to us, she was playing in her last AAU game, and I was sitting next to the recruiting coordinator of Vanderbilt University,” Jabir said, “and Andrea was killing it. So she started Googling Andrea’s name, and when she finally realized she had committed to us, she punched me in the arm.”
Jabir was assured that Hoover could have played just about anywhere she wanted and feels privileged to have coached her for the past four seasons.
From the time Jabir first met Hoover through this season, she has been a versatile player and a motivated woman.
“She’s so complete,” Jabir said of his team captain, “she’s always been able to score, defend and be tough. They’re qualities she’s always had.”
A leader on the court, Hoover is decisive and takes control, setting the game’s tone with her performance.
“She doesn’t have to make speeches, she just acts the way she was raised to act, and that’s quite a way to lead,” Jabir said. “Hoover can just be Hoover, and she’s such a good kid that that’s enough.”
The recruiting story Jabir told was not the only time Vanderbilt University influenced his relationship with his player. This year, the team played at Vanderbilt’s Memorial Gymnasium, where limited floor space forces the benches to be located at the ends of the court, behind the baskets.
“It was late in the game, and I switched to a zone defense, and we were defending away from the bench,” Jabir said. Hoover affirmed the call and ran back with her teammates, whose backs were to the coach. “She went back and switched it to man,” Jabir said with a chuckle, “because that’s what she thought was the best thing to do. Sometimes her instincts are right on.”
Hoover claimed she didn’t remember that specific instance, but said, “It’s a good thing it worked, because I probably would have been on the bench if it hadn’t.”
She described her relationship with her Jabir, “It’s kind of like a parent-daughter thing—really unique,” she said. “I look at him, and we can have our conversation from 30 feet away without even talking because I know what he is thinking.”
Hoover has had an impressive season, leading the team in points per game and shooting percent from three-point range. In January, she was one of 50 players in women’s college basketball to be named to the Naismith Trophy Watch List. The award is annually given to the top men and women’s college basketball players. Hoover’s talent on the court and character off it have made her a highly-regarded player among college and professional coaches.
When the team played recently in Richmond, Virginia, Jabir spoke with a WNBA coach about his best players. “He told me I’m too democratic,” Jabir said, “that when I have kids like Hoover and Ally [Malott], they deserve more attention.”
While Jabir wrestles with the decision to run specific plays for his best players, he knows his team’s prowess. “There’s strength in our ability to share the ball because teams have to prepare for five people instead of just one,” he said.
That’s why someone as unselfish as Hoover fits so well with Jabir’s system, and that’s where her real talent shines.
“I don’t think we run a play for her, and she still gets 20 points a game,” Jabir said.
The other players to whom Hoover dishes the ball are versatile as well. Fellow senior Ally Malott averages higher than 15 points per game and dropped 30 this weekend on Saint Louis University. Hoover is grateful for the talent of her teammates and the character they give to the locker room.
“We have a lot of different personalities on this team,” Hoover said, “and they really push me to be the best I can be. We’re very goofy, and we gel well together. That’s helped me out a lot because I can be a little serious, but since I’ve been here I can get a little looser.”
The competitive nature of these young players help to build up the entire team. Hoover talked about junior Amber Deane’s work ethic and how it has improved her own: “Amber is always in the gym working out. And if she weren’t always there, then I probably wouldn’t join her.”
Deane and Kelley Austria, junior guards, will be the leaders of this team next year after Hoover and Malott graduate.
“The thing with Hoover is that she’s such a great person,” Deane said, “and it translates well into basketball. She’s a great leader, and I’ve looked up to her for the past few years I’ve played with her, and I wish I could play with her longer.”
Deane also talked about what next season may be like without this year’s leading scorers. “It’s going to be a team effort,” she said, “they’re arguably best two players to come to Dayton and play.”
The focus now, though, is on the remainder of 2015.
Hoover was privileged enough to begin her first season just as Dayton’s program was gaining steam, and the team has been in the NCAA tournament every season since then. However, they are unsatisfied with the fact that they’ve never made it past the second round.
“We have a ton of experience [in the tournament],” Hoover said, “and since this is my last year, I’ll have some extra motivation to get past the first weekend [to the Sweet Sixteen].”
As for her future in the sport, Hoover is unsure but unconcerned. She considered entering the WNBA draft or trying to get picked up by a professional team, but she is only thinking about living in the present. “The only thing I have control over is winning [the next game],” she said.
Coach Jabir is not worried about her future either, citing her “easy-breezy” attitude when saying she’ll be content wherever she ends up.
Wherever that ends up being, she will take the memories and experiences from UD with her, leaving the women’s basketball program in a better state than when she first joined it.