High School Sports

Noles freshman Bianca Hanna has bright future

BRADENTON - The first big game of Southeast's season came last Friday.

It was the night after the Seminoles' girls basketball team lost to a county rival for the first time in more than 10 years, and rather than take some time to heal, Southeast had to come right back and play its fiercest rival - Manatee.

So that's when Bianca Hanna took over.

She hit jumpers and runners and intercepted passes. She was solid from the free-throw line. She never stepped off the court.

From her height to her shot to her composure, the casual observer would have guessed Hanna to be a seasoned upperclassman, a veteran of key games such as this one.

Wrong.

Hanna is a freshman, just the fifth to crack coach John Harder's starting lineup in his 33 years. Timing is part of the reason - more schools are being built, giving more players at more places a chance to play. But Harder still credits Hanna for having her name scribbled into the lineup every night.

"If she wasn't capable, she wouldn't be starting," he said.

And throughout the first 20 games of her varsity career, the quiet Hanna has proven herself quite capable. Entering Wednesday night's game with North Port, Hanna was pacing the team in scoring (13.3 points a game) and among the team leaders in rebounds (82) and assists (35). She's shooting better than 45 percent from the field and 63 percent from the foul line.

A forward who has the ability to play anywhere on the court, Hanna can drive to the basket - her favorite part of her game, she said - or strike from the perimeter, as her 16 3-pointers prove.

Last Friday against Manatee, she scored nine of her game-high 18 points in the first quarter, leading the Noles to a cleansing 41-35 victory that upped their overall mark to 11-9 and Class 5A-District 12 ledger to 7-5.

"She's dynamite," Manatee coach Flo Brazukas said. "She can do it all."

Such play is in Hanna's makeup. The Bradenton native is a cousin of Kimber Smith and Casey Baker, two integral pieces of Southeast's history who are now playing JuCo basketball in Illinois.

Hanna first stepped into Southeast's gymnasium when she was 12 and said she wasn't awed by the Seminoles' accomplishments listed on the Wall of Champions - nor is she awed that she's in the starting lineup so soon.

"I just go out and play my game," she said. "I know I have a good team behind me."

Hanna impressed Harder over the summer when she wanted to accompany the coach and some players to a camp at Florida Southern College.

"It was a week jump that some kids don't get," Harder said. "Not every girl wants to go. . . . This girl wanted to go."

But that's Hanna. She grew up playing the game at the Police Athletic League, and when she's not working with the Seminoles, she's playing at area parks. Either that, or she's watching television.

"We knew before how good Bianca was," Southeast junior point guard LaDaisha Holloway said. "We're not surprised."

Harder said he was, albeit pleasantly. He figured Hanna would step in and be a key piece of Southeast's rebuilding season.

Instead, she's been a starter since the beginning. Her future is wide open.

"She has quite a career in front of her," Harder said.

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