Photos by Kyle West
By: Graham West
Hard work, toughness and focus are the key elements that have led to Hilary Hanaka’s outstanding success at the university level. After recently achieving the milestone of 1000 career points, Hanaka is looking forward to a season filled with promise.
Hitting 1000 career points is a huge career landmark and it meant a lot to Hanaka, although she stressed the importance the team has had in contributing to her being able to achieve it.
“It’s a pretty big milestone to hit and it means a lot to hit that point,” Hanaka said. “But, of course it’s a team sport overall, so I think I’m more excited to figure out where our team will end up this season… it’s obviously nice to hit that point, but I obviously wouldn’t have gotten to this point without the help of my teammates and my coach.”
It has not always been easy on the path to greatness for Hanaka as there have been challenges with balancing academics and being a varsity athlete.
“There are positives and negatives. Coming into first year, that was when the big adjustment hit,” Hanaka said. “Obviously, it’s a much bigger time commitment being on a varsity team and having classes every single day, practices every day and you’re away on weekends and just making sure you find the right balance to do everything.”
“With that being said, you’re surrounded by an incredible group of girls, coaching staffs,” Hanaka added. “We have so much support through the athletic department, so whenever things were going downhill, you always had someone to pick you back up.”
Hanaka’s experience with the difficulties athletes can face and her expertise on the court are some of the things that make her a great leader. Being there for her teammates on and off the court is instrumental to the success of the team and something that is incredibly important to her as well.
“Off the court is just as important as on the court when it comes to varsity sports,” Hanaka said.
“Being a veteran player, I’ve been around for five years so I’ve been through most of the things that bring you down and that go on. So just being able to be there for the girls is something that I really strive to do.”
“Just knowing that I’ve been in the position of a first-year, second-year, third-year and even a fourth-year player and things aren’t always fun and games there’s always going to be those lows,” Hanaka added. “Being able to make sure the girls are aware that I’m always there for them, whether it’s something basketball-related, life-related, school-related, whatever it might be, that just because I’m a leader on the court, doesn’t mean I can’t be the leader off the court. ”
Whenever Hanaka’s career as a player ends, it will most certainly not be the end to her basketball career. When you have a particularly knowledgeable player who is a natural leader, coaching is always on the horizon. It is something Hanaka is interested in, and given her success as a player, seems very possible.
“I would love to be a coach. Growing up I’ve always been surrounded by basketball and it’s been a huge part of my life,” Hanaka said. “Being a player has been incredible, but I think I’m kinda ready to hang up the shoes and move forward. Hopefully down the road, coaching is something that I’ll be put into.”
Always one of the first people in the gym, Hanaka has had an outstanding career so far in the maroon and grey and looks to only improve. The team is one to watch as they continue to play their way to a return to nationals, with their eyes clearly set on taking home gold.