Coming into the second half of conference play, the Hoggard girls’ basketball team is in position to defend its league championship from one year ago. The recent run of success under fourth-year Coach Boubacar Aw has been a collective effort over the past few seasons thanks to a ton of hard work.
When Emma Haywood and Aleah Thompson got on the floor for the first time under Aw’s direction as freshmen, they didn’t know what to expect from the former Division I hoopster. But, the Georgetown product had the recipe for success.
Now as team captains in their senior year and with a 4A East Regional appearance under the belts, the dynamic duo has put forth the effort and is now reaping the benefits of years of following Aw’s game plan.
“Coach used to be super tough and that first year was a good learning experience for both of us,” said Haywood, “He’s softened up a little bit and understands us better, but getting everyone to buy in was an important part of it. Working hard and what comes with winning is something that has definitely helped us become successful.”
After losing last year’s leading scorer and rebounder, the pair of seniors has been called upon to step into the role of being important influences on the floor. They are using the experience gained from the many minutes logged at the varsity level to guide their skills, helping a Hoggard roster that has the most depth of any team they’ve been a part of during their time on Shipyard Boulevard.
As freshmen there were no upperclassmen on the team and basically no experience on the roster at the varsity level. This season, Haywood and Thompson understand the importance of their roles and believe the success will continue once they are gone.
“We come into practice expecting to work hard,” Thompson added, “understanding that coach is going to coach us hard to help us get better and not taking it personal is something that has been big. We’ve learned to work together as a team and mesh together. That’s important because of the younger players we’ve had through the years. It helps us bond and we use that to push each other.”
With two juniors, four sophomores and three freshmen paired alongside the senior captains, Hoggard’s future on the basketball court looks bright as ever. It’s the constant focus, determination and ability for his players to be coached that has brought everything into form for Aw, with high praise to his team leaders who helped mold the Vikings’ program from an uncertain start four years ago, to become a perennial favorite.
“You can’t say enough about the work Emma and Aleah have put in over the last few years,” said Aw. “They are the first group to come in as freshmen and now leave as seniors. We’ve learned a lot from each other during that time. I couldn’t be prouder of the way they’ve hung in there. They’ve been two very coachable players and that’s what you look for in an athlete.
While Haywood took over as the team’s leading scorer this year, averaging 13.2 points per game this season, Thompson has become a strong presence in the paint on both ends of floor. Both are willing to do whatever they can in order to get the win.
“I think we’re definitely deeper than last year and have a ton of talent on this team,” Haywood said. “We have to keep helping each other and since we have so much experience as seniors I think the younger players look up to that. If they continue to push each other in the future I have no doubt they will utilize it the right way, especially with Coach Aw pushing them.”
Haywood and Thompson have aspirations of continuing their athletic careers after high school as athletes in softball and soccer, respectively, but attribute their accomplishments to the mindset instilled under their basketball coach.
“Pushing myself harder is something that I’ll always take with me,” said Thompson. “That’s one thing Coach Aw has really taught me. He really gets on you to make yourself better.”