HELENA – Heading into the season the Carroll College women’s basketball team had a bit of an issue. Two-time all-American center Cassidy Hashley would be out for the year. But the Saints didn’t panic. They just called for the next woman up.
“Once we found out we lost Cassie it was kind of a shock, but we knew we could do it,” said junior forward Hannah Dean. “It all pushed us a little harder. We had the hardest preseason we’ve ever had. We all stepped up a little bit. I don’t think it changed our preparation, it just kind of changed our focus and our mentality.”
No one on the team has done that more than the junior Dean, who has taken over Hashley’s position as stats leader for the purple and gold, a role she fits perfectly.
“I’m kind of the person where I put a lot of pressure on myself anyway,” said Dean. “Coming into this season I knew my role would change, but the pressure really hasn’t because I expect a lot from myself. I think that my teammates have really stepped up and contributed more. I just happen to be in a position that I have to do a little more scoring and a little more rebounding just to make up for what we lost from Cassie. But it’s worked out so far.”
“Hannah is a unique player in that she’s a post but she’s got guard skills,” said head coach Rachelle Sayers. “You know, if you look at the statistics, not only does she lead us in the major stats of points and rebounds, but she leads us in assists. She leads in blocks. She leads us in just about everything that you could. She just really makes our team go. I told the guards the other day, ‘You know, if I’m guard on this team I’m getting it to her every single time,’ because she has an opportunity to score on her defender or she’s going to make a great play that is going to lead to the score for somebody else.”
This kind of role is a new one for Dean with the Saints, but it is one she’s filled before while growing up in Gardiner.
“I came from a small school. I was kind of the go-to the whole time so it is kind of part of me now,” said Dean. “I do enjoy it and I like to work hard, push myself. It can get to me once and a while but I’ve done better this year about moving moment to moment, game to game. Not getting too caught up in my mistakes or what I’m not doing or what my teammates are doing. It’s been way better this year.”
“She’s more of that leader that will show you the way, pave the way for you,” said Sayers. “‘This is how we do it. This is how you’re going to do it. Follow me and I’ll get you there,’ and our team embraces that. She’s extremely intelligent. She’s very dedicated to her work in the classroom and her work on the floor and she takes a lot of pride in being a great teammate.”
That’s something that leads to extra off-court homework for the accounting major, but is also contributing to her great season.
“After games I will look at percentages and statistics and see where I need to improve and if I need to take better quality shots, if I need to step up my free throws, whatever it is,” she said. “But I do look at statistics, I just don’t tend to dwell on them. Even in plays and stuff, the angles of cuts, everything. It’s kind of my forte and always has been. I definitely try and incorporate it where I can.”