Attitude May Be Hislop’s Strength
HARRISONBURG — Tarik Hislop looks absolutely miserable in post-game press conferences if the James Madison women’s basketball team loses. The Dukes’ senior point guard answers the questions, but her stare always has a certain atomic death-ray quality to it.
“She just hates to lose,” JMU coach Kenny Brooks said. “I’d hate to play board games with her … if she doesn’t win, because I’m sure she’ll bite your head off — but sweet girl. Very sweet girl. But just don’t be around her when she doesn’t win.”
Really, any sort of losing turns Hislop grumpy, even checkers with her boyfriend, Rayshawn Goins, a forward on JMU’s men’s basketball team.
“The last time we played, he beat me, so he won’t play me again,” Hislop said. “But I beat him like seven times straight before that.”
If Hislop loses a basketball game, Brooks said her recovery period is typically about a day-and-a-half. Brooks — no shock — described Hislop as one of the top five most competitive players he has coached in 11 seasons at Madison. The others are Meredith Alexis, Dawn Evans, Shanna Price and Tamera Young, who, Brooks said, once cried after losing a summer pickup game at JMU.
Hislop is that competitive, and it’s worked for her.
It’s how the Silver Spring, Md., native earned her scholarship to JMU — in a head-to-head battle at a JMU camp, she beat out another guard Brooks was recruiting — and it’s how she’s developed into one of the top (and perhaps most clutch) players in the Colonial Athletic Association.
In a 68-65 win over Northeastern on Sunday, Hislop — whose jump shot has undergone almost nonstop surgery since her freshman year — drilled a game-winning, fadeaway 3-pointer with two players guarding her and just 2.9 seconds left in the game.
On Nov. 22 in a tournament in Cancun, Hislop hit a 3-pointer to force overtime in an 89-86 win over mid-major power Wisconsin-Green Bay.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself, and sometimes that’s a good thing and sometimes that’s a bad thing,” Hislop said. “My coaches are constantly telling me just to play, don’t put so much pressure on yourself, but, ever since I started playing basketball, that’s just — I mean, not only in basketball, that’s just everyday life. And I guess that’s how I get the best out of me. When we lose, I do feel like I could have done something better, and that’s just how I am.”
Hislop is averaging 16 points per game, which ranks fifth in the CAA. Drexel’s Hollie Mershon leads the league, averaging 18.4. But, lately, Hislop’s baskets have been less about how many she gets and more about when she gets them.
Look at the timely 3-pointers she hit against Northeastern and Green Bay. Then there are the buckets with less dramatic flair — the field goals she’s been sinking late in games to keep the Dukes (8-7 overall, 2-1 in the CAA) close.
During the current home-stand, Hislop did that against Drexel and again against Northeastern to keep Madison in a position to win late. Balanced scoring also has been an issue for JMU this season, making Hislop’s emergence that much more important.
Hislop’s burgeoning clutchness is not only the result of her competitive drive but also the surgery on her shot. Hislop now has an all-but-automatic mid-range jumper and a developing 3-pointer. Last season, Hislop shot just 19.8 percent (16-for-81) from 3-point range. This year, she’s shooting 31.3 percent (10-for-32).
The 21-year-old Hislop — who Brooks believes is a lock to play professionally overseas after her college career — said the progress on her jump shot has been slower than she would prefer.
“Sometimes I get frustrated that I do all this practicing and my shots don’t go in,” Hislop said. “That’s part of the pressure I put on myself, though. I just think it naturally translates over. I am a big believer in, if you prepare, then you’ll eventually see the results, so that’s why I practice so much.”
Overall, Hislop is a different player than when she first arrived in Harrisonburg. As a freshman, she was a drive-to-the-hoop-only sort of shooting guard and benefited considerably from playing beside the CAA’s and JMU’s career scoring leader, point guard Dawn Evans, who finished with 2,667 points. Hislop is sixth on JMU’s scoring list with 1,498.
Today, Hislop is a legitimate point guard and a balanced offensive threat. And, most importantly, there’s still that I-even-hate-to-lose-to-my-boyfriend-in-checkers competitive mentality.
“She doesn’t have the best jumper, she doesn’t have the best ball-handling and, like I’ve said before, she’s a manufactured point guard,” Brooks said, “but I’ll take her any day, because of her competitive drive.”