Samantha Hinke’s goal this season was to average 20 points per game. Turns out she wasn’t giving herself enough credit.
The Half Hollow Hills West girls basketball star has averaged 30.5 points in 10 games while leading the Colts to a 5-5 record. Last week, she scored 41 points in a win over Hauppauge and 39 in a loss to West Babylon.
The 6-foot forward was the team’s No. 2 scorer last season at 14.2 points per game and conceded much of the scoring load to Tori Harris, Newsday’s All-Long Island Player of the Year.
Harris now plays for James Madison. Once she graduated, Hinke knew it was her time.
“Watching Tori last year, I always did look up to her,” said Hinke, who is committed to Ithaca College. “She was older than me. She was our star player last year. I always wanted to be like her when I was a senior. Since Tori is gone now, I think that I’ve kind of stepped up and taken that role.
“I think ever since AAU season, I became a lot more versatile. I’m able to drive a lot more, right to the basket. I’m a better shooter than I was last year.”
Hills West coach Bryan Dugan told Hinke she needed to average about 18 points per game this season to reach 1,000. At her current pace, she could reach that mark on Jan. 11 at West Islip. She’s 42 points away.
Dugan, who was Hinke’s physical education teacher from kindergarten to fifth grade, said she has improved across the board as a result of more confidence and training from AAU.
“She obviously has improved,” he said. “Her ability to finish at the basket has always been there. She was putting the ball in the basket as a freshman.”
Dugan cited her Eurostep as a major addition to her game, as well as her ability to change course and shoot a pull-up jumper. Though she’s made only five three-pointers this season, Hinke is an efficient outside scorer.
“She wants the ball more,” Dugan said. “You can see it. She knows she’s the main option.”
Hinke gets some of that confidence from having watched Harris last season. In crunch time, Harris was most often tasked with making clutch free throws or hitting big shots.
Hinke said she still talks frequently with her on FaceTime. Their conversations are mostly basketball-related, and Hinke said Harris is proud of how well she’s playing. Harris led Hills West to the Suffolk Class AA quarterfinals last season, and Hinke hopes to make a similar run.
As the only 30-point scorer on Long Island, Hinke is a weapon, and she makes it look easy.
Said Dugan: “It’s those real ly gifted athletes that it doesn’t look like they’re working as hard as they do.”