After spending a year on the sidelines, redshirt freshman guard Tori Hyduke has found the ball in her hands more than any women’s basketball player this season.
An ACL injury put Hyduke on the bench for the 2018-19 season, delaying her debut at the point for the Colonials (7-10, 1-3 A-10). This season, Hyduke said she is developing her voice as a young leader and adapting to the expectations of manning GW’s offense at the point.
“It’s definitely a big jump from high school to college,” she said. “Having to step into the point guard role as a freshman is difficult, but it’s something that I’m trying to get better and better at every day.”
The squad lost both redshirt junior guard Sydney Zambrotta and sophomore guard Maddie Loder to injury on Nov. 13 and Dec. 20, respectively, which limited the team’s options at the point. In their absences, Hyduke is the lone Colonial to start all 17 games this season and leads GW with 32.2 minutes per game.
She fires at a 39.3 percent clip from the field and sinks a team-leading 41.1 percent of shots from deep to the tune of 10.2 points per game. She earned Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week honors last month for averaging 22 points in a pair of road comeback wins against Delaware and Quinnipiac.
“I’m really just thinking of trying to run our offense to the best of my ability, and the shots just come from it,” Hyduke said. “I just am confident enough to knock my shots down. I don’t really think I’m thinking score, it’s just that I can feel when I need to score.”
Last season, Hyduke said she looked up to 2019-graduate point guard Mei-Lyn Bautista for her style of play and love for the team. She added that she and Bautista spent some time last season discussing the nuances of the point guard role in GW’s system.
Hyduke said she is looking to head coach Jennifer Rizzotti this season, a former point guard at UConn, to help her improve her leadership and communication skills.
“She’s hard on me, but I’m ready for it and I know that it’s going to help me in the long run and help the team in the long run,” Hyduke said, referring to Rizzotti. “I don’t really take it as something bad. I take it as a positive.”
As the offense attempts to derive more points in the paint and from post players, Hyduke’s role on the team is ever-changing. Rizzotti said she has responded well to the shift from a producer to a passer.
“The first couple of conference games, teams have really keyed on her and she’s struggled to get done what she was able to do in the nonconference portion,” Rizzotti said. “So I really challenged her to understand what it means now to take that next step and get teammates involved and be a distributor and not be the focal point of our offense.”
She added that Hyduke’s shifting role has been accompanied by increased minutes studying film, asking “good” questions and turning her mindset away from being a scoring point guard.
“There’s a receptiveness to her and a willingness to be a really consummate point guard and not just a scoring point guard that I’ve really seen develop over the last few weeks,” Rizzotti said.
Hyduke’s teammates have also tried to encourage her development through communication on the court, a skill necessary to running an offense, graduate student forward Alexandra Maund said. She added that the squad’s heightened communication has helped her see the floor and find teammates.
“We’ve been trying to make sure she knows that she has a voice on the team. Even though she is a freshman she is our leader on the court,” Maund said. “Always constantly begging her to talk to us, forcing her to talk to us sometimes, giving her certain responsibilities that require her to talk to bring everyone in. It’s translated to her passing.”
Maund said coming back from injury to a starting position is not easy, but Hyduke has transitioned well and became a floor general who can lead the Colonials to victory.
“To go from being out for a whole year, not playing any basketball to coming on and playing college basketball is such an adjustment,” Maund said. “It’s one I actually made myself and it’s so hard. So, to know that she’s not only come back on the floor but is now starting and leading us as a point guard is insane.”
Roman Bobek contributed reporting.