Above photo of Kasey Jo Hinton by Russell Marwitz/True To The Cru
BELTON, Texas- It was early January 2022, and the UMHB women’s basketball coaching staff was faced with a critical challenge in the days leading up to a Jan. 3 duel with Concordia. Several players, all contributors, would be unavailable, something that had the potential to hurt the Cru on the defensive end. So they turned to Kasey Jo Hinton, the team’s senior forward, who promptly rose to the challenge, filling several roles as UMHB opened 2022 with a 66-59 win.
“I just want [my teammates] to know that they can trust me,” Hinton told True To The Cru. “I do that by working hard every minute I’m in the game, every minute of practice, and doing the little things that often get overlooked.
Hinton is not a scorer, and she is the first one to tell you that. But the success of a team is not purely the result of its scoring.
Doing “the little things right,” as Morefield often says, has led UMHB to an 11-0 record in ASC play entering tonight’s home rivalry duel with Hardin-Simmons. And Hinton, one of three seniors on the roster, has been vital in that. She might average a mere 1.7 points per game, but has established herself as one of the Cru’s superior defenders, in addition to her quality rebounding ability.
“People are always justified by points per game, and unfortunately, that’s very sad,” Morefield said recently. “But here’s the great thing. We have a company called HoopsIQ that does our analytics for us. [Kasey] has the third or fourth highest plus-minus (how many more points a player scores while she is on the court as compared to when she is not) on the team.
“That plus-minus accounts for a lot of different things, such as groups that you’re in, the opponent, the points given up and scored with that group on the floor. That’s the stat that needs to be looked at. She doesn’t have a high points per game average, but I’ll tell you this right now, she’s won us a lot of games.”
Now in her fourth year in the Belton, the College Station native has found her niche and not wavered in her impact. But Hinton’s style of play on the court was not always as clear as it has been this season. Despite her incredible defensive and rebounding play, the forward went through the majority of last season feeling that she needed to become a scorer in order to remain on the court. It was only after the year concluded that Hinton had a conversation with Morefield, who made it clear that the coaching staff was not expecting a scorer, but rather the player they had recruited through high school, who separated herself by her aggressive, team-first mentality.
“In the past couple years, I have really struggled with my confidence,” Hinton said. “I thought that Coach Morefield wanted me to be a scorer. But after the season last year, I had a talk with him, and he was like, ‘Kasey, I need you to go in, bring energy on defense, rebound, get deflections. Be who you are.
“I was putting myself into this box of, ‘Score or you’re not going to play.’ This year I tried to get my confidence back and I find my confidence is on the defensive end.”
Defense has been a critical part of Hinton’s skill set since her days at College Station high school, where she was a three-time all-district award winner. Current College Station head coach Deanna Doles, an assistant while Hinton was there, played a pivotal role in shaping the forward into the defender she is at the college level.
“I love defense,” Hinton said. “I learned to love defense in high school from my assistant coach, who worked under [Texas A&M head coach] Gary Blair. She really saw the potential in me to be a great defender.
“Coming into college, I didn’t want to change who I was. I am not a scorer. That’s not me. But I love doing the dirty work, and doing things on defense that help my teammates with their defense. I love being in help-side defense.”
Hinton’s play on that end of the floor has helped translate to the rest of the team, which has played a one unit for the vast portion of the season. With 18 newcomers on the roster, it has been up to the returners, especially the upperclassmen like Hinton, to exhibit the program standard that has produced two consecutive ASC titles.
“Our new defensive mindset has a lot to do with the new team dynamic we have,” Hinton says. “ The last couple years, we’ve had superstars like Kendall [Rollins], Alecia [Blackwell], and Hannah [Holt], who we know can drop 30 points easily. That was great.
“But on this team, there’s not one person that’s going to drop 30. It’s more of a collective unit. So having that mentality and working as a team on the offensive end, has really translated into working as a team on the defensive end.”
Of course, no cohesiveness comes without a little bit of sacrifice. And in the words of Morefield, Hinton, who has started 15 games for the Cru this season, “is the ultimate sacrificer”, on both ends of the floor.
“She’s the ultimate sacrificer,” Morefield said. “She passes up shots that we wish she would take, but she makes the right play.”
“I love doing all the things that you don’t see on the stat sheet, that my teammates get credit for,” Hinton said. “I want to get them steals, and deflections, because I’m locking my defender down.”
Hinton’s leadership present on the court is also evident off of it, including in the team’s preseason conversations. There was a sort of consistent doubt towards UMHB entering the year, as the Cru finished 2020-21 at 13-8, though the team hit its peak late and rolled to two Top 15 wins in the ASC Tournament, handing No. 2 ETBU its first loss of the year in the conference championship.
“Coming into this season, we heard a lot of talk from other programs and coaches associations and everyone pretty much was on the same page, doubting us from the jump,” Hinton recalls. “The three seniors that are on the team now, we made it clear to the freshmen that, ‘We’ve had so much success in the past and now y’all are part of this successful program because you deserve to be here.’”
Creating that confidence within the team’s young standouts is just one of the contributions Hinton has made during her time in Belton that will not show up on a stat sheet, but has played as critical a role as any in the recent success.
She came to Belton for two reasons, but really one in the same: she wanted to play high-level basketball and pursue the physical therapy program, which meant being challenged in both areas.
“I went on multiple visits,” Hinton, who was recruited by schools in the SCAC and ASC, said. “Even just walking on this campus, everyone is raising their level in the classroom and on the court. It’s like nowhere else I’ve ever been.”
SheKasey has certainly been challenged while as a Crusader, and perhaps no more than last season. The team’s upperclassmen gave everything they had to help pull UMHB out of a four-game losing streak in February, and carried the momentum into the postseason run. That ending could be described as “storybook”, but Hinton has a different storyline in mind for the remainder of this regular season.
“Last year when we were in that losing spell, Bethany [McLeod], Alexia [Martin], Olivia [Champion] and I had to go through the trenches. We’re trying not to have a repeat of that, just to win in the end. We want to be on top the whole time. We want a target on our backs the whole season. We love it.”