Attempting to get a look at many teams as possible this season, it didn’t take long to recognize the amount of talented girls’ basketball programs in Richmond, VA. I had the chance to see several teams in a couple of events, most notably the ‘Times-Dispatch Invitational’ (TDIT) tournament (December 2018) and ‘Athletes for Awareness’ showcase (January 2019); both annually hosted in the 804. The 2021 class of players especially caught my eye, as I took note of several young ladies who already play the game with natural production. They contain potential to blow up into highly recruited prospects soon. Over at Trinity Episcopal School (TES), the Titans did not have to rely on underclassmen like some other teams, as they returned some key veterans to finish as one of the best in the area, at a 22-5 record. I saw TES play about four times total. Without question, they played some of their best in the TDIT, easily taking down stellar competition to collect the title for a second-straight year. It was just one of the team’s notable moments, as they put on several dominant showings. A key piece of the Titans’ success involved the arrival of newcomer Kristy Hamze ’20, who exploded on the scene as a top-10 leading scorer in Richmond.
A transfer from Cosby High School (Midlothian, VA), Hamze turned her attention to the campus of TES after considering how the school and basketball program could help further her development as a student-athlete. Most recognize the Cosby Titans as one of the top powerhouses for the last several years. They won the Virginia High School League (VHSL) Class 6 state championship in 2018; their fourth total. Still, Hamze wasn’t afraid to go for a change of scenery, which turned out to be a smartly-made decision for the second half of her high school career. After getting settled with some things, she now comfortably calls TES her ‘new home.’
“Trinity’s treated me very well this year,” the junior assured. “It’s been a lot easier to focus on my academics because of the one-on-one attention given to students by the teachers, which is one of the major changes of private school. I’d say making the decision (to transfer) was pretty easy for me, actually. I wanted to be in an environment where unity was always present and, after visiting the school a few times, it was very clear that Trinity was where I belonged. The only difficult part of the transition was getting used to the schedule. It confused me for a good four weeks in the beginning of the school year.”
I’ve interviewed a couple of other TES players and have heard similar statements about how well the school attendees get along with each other. Stepping into a place that holds that value makes everything else operate quite smoothly when one’s a new member. In Hamze’s case, her transition to the court went even better than that as a student due to her already-established familiarity with the Titans’ head coach, Adam Lonon. She’s acknowledged the former college hooper as an essential figure in her career thus far.
“Yes, I knew Coach Lonon before I made the decision to come to Trinity. He’s always helped me improve my game and I knew playing for him would be a really great experience for me. He always encouraged me and gave me the confidence I was missing. I’ve learned a lot about myself as a player through him.”
The confidence proved clear, as Hamze gave the team a huge spark with her explosive scoring. She especially stood out in December, first winning Tournament MVP honors of TES’ hosted ‘Travis Tournament’ after scoring 24 points in a championship win over TPLS Christian Academy (Midlothian, VA) on December 1, 2018. A few weeks later, she again went off during her team’s run in the TDIT, having back-to-back games of 23 and 21 points.
“My favorite moment of the season would have to be winning that tournament (the TDIT). We had competition and being able to play the way we did really showed our structure as a team.”
Anyone who hadn’t heard of the new TES star prior to the TDIT certainly knew after the week had concluded. Hamze made a handful of standout scoring plays in those two nights at Hanover High School (Mechanicsville, VA) in front of solid crowds. She can create her own shot at any point by using her separation game to blow past defenders with quickness and also pull-up for jumpers from around the perimeter. She has an excellent feel for the court, especially in transition, always looked in attack mode whenever I saw her play. Defensively, she also stripped opponents for steals at an effective rate, usually turning that into offense by pushing the ball up the floor so well.
“My comfort on the court came entirely from my team. They trusted me. I’ve always had the skill in me, but playing with this team allowed me to play more confident in playing the way I knew I could.”
Entering the New Year, Hamze’s reliable play continued, as she maintained her spot on the list of Richmond’s top scorers; ending with an average of over 17 points. However, she went through a stretch of some slight adversity once small injuries came into play during the latter part of the season. One could expect this, in a sense, when considering how many minutes Hamze had to log due to TES not having many players on the roster.
“Hurting my back wasn’t too bad, just a minor setback for me. Coming back from it threw me off of my game, in terms of confidence, but it didn’t take long before I was back to my old self.”
With Hamze back on the floor, the Titans made another strong push in the last few games of the season but unfortunately fell short of winning their conference, League of Independent Schools (LIS), championship. Less than a week later, they closed out the season with a loss to Bishop Ireton (Alexandria, VA) in a quarterfinal matchup of the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association (VISAA) state tournament. While I’m sure there was some obvious disappointment in the season ending a bit earlier than desired, TES did have one particular accomplishment to celebrate during the season’s closing moments: Hamze’s first scholarship offer. After witnessing the junior finish with a career-high 30-point performance in a first-round win over St. Gertrude (Richmond, VA), Western Carolina University extended an offer. A much-deserved achievement for Hamze; I’m optimistic this will help expand her recruitment moving forward.
“It was great to get that first offer from Western Carolina; the head coach attended our playoff game. I’ve been receiving other college interest, expressed mainly through phone calls and text messages, which of course means a lot to me. I think that I’ll continue to attract attention by becoming more versatile. Most of my career, I’ve played as a shooting guard, but I’m able to play other positions and want to keep improving in that area.”
For her final spring/summer season of travel basketball, one can find the junior Titan on the Adidas circuit with Team Loaded AAU, led by head coach Mike Davis, who Hamze has great praise for. With her ever-growing confidence on the floor, I have no doubt that she’ll make the most of that last ride. When she’s not giving out endless buckets on the hardwood, the personable Hamze also spends part of her time volunteering at the Bon Secours Community Hospital in Richmond; something she’s mostly been occupied with on weekends recently. The hobby has a connection to what she has planned for her future career.
With a valuable senior trio of Elaina Chapman ’19 (University of Richmond commit), Angel Burgos ’19 (also a University of Richmond commit), and Logan Carter ’19 (Virginia Wesleyan University commit) all collecting their diplomas soon, most eyes will center on Hamze next year as a top returning option for the Titans. In my eyes, she plays the game just as well as any other 2020 prospect I’ve seen in the area. If the team requires her to take over a primary role as the ‘go-to player,’ I doubt she’ll handle this with any issues. Her production this year spoke volumes and a big summer should only further her development as a special local talent. Coaches need to definitely swing by the school’s campus to give her a look if they haven’t already; she’s a certified HOOPER.
We can always expect it; where does Kristy Hamze see herself in ten years?
“In college, I plan to study medicine and hopefully build a career off that. So, in ten years, I would hope to see myself as a doctor working in a hospital.”
Hamze might be taking care of patients in the future, but right now she has opponents sick when trying to guard her.