It’s been a while since Hillhouse has had a girls’ basketball team as good as the one that the Academics put out on the court this winter.
In fact, you have to go back to the Bria Holmes days early in this decade for that.
And Hillhouse, which is 6-3 at nearly the halfway point of the regular season, has another star that is being recruited by Division I schools in Tanayja London. The 5-foot-11 senior leads Hillhouse with an average of 17 points per game, up six points a game from a year ago. She also had 18 rebounds in a victory over Lyman Hall on Jan. 9 and is averaging 41/2 steals a game.
“We’re off to a good start,” London said. “So far, I’m proud of my performance and showing up in big games. I’m more comfortable this year and have more confidence.”
London has been playing long enough that a lot comes naturally. She started playing basketball at five years of age in the Branford Recreation League with her father, Richard, as her coach.
“He was my coach at one point and my AAU coach in sixth grade,” she said. “After a while, I just wanted him to be a sideline fan or coach.”
She also played soccer and softball, but when she found she was a talented basketball player, she began to concentrate on only hoops and moved on to the popular Farnham House program in New Haven and was the only girl on some of that program’s boys’ teams.
From there, she played in middle school for the Davis Street team in middle school.
“We were terrible,” London recalled. “We would get beat by everyone, but I would always hustle on the court.”
As a freshman at Hillhouse, she came off the bench for the varsity team, but didn’t play a lot.
“I was coming in and out, but I wasn’t doing that well,” London said. “We had three juniors who went to Division I or II schools, so I was mostly playing junior varsity.”
In her sophomore year, she moved up to be the first player off the bench and has started over the last two seasons.
Hillhouse coach Catrina Hawley-Stewart is looking for London to take more shots in the second half of the season as the Academics prep for the CIAC state tournament.
“She’s a team player,” Hawley-Stewart said. “Last year she showed she can be more consistent. Now, she’s trying not to take all the shots since we have other talented players, but she needs to be more aggressive.
While London is sometimes the tallest player on the court in high school and could play inside, her game is more suited toward driving to the basket. She knows she will have to develop a better jump shot and work on ball-handling in college as she will play either shooting guard or small forward.
“I’ll have to pick up more technique rather than a simple crossover or between the legs,” London said. “I will have to get lower and use more quickness. Coaches are looking for me to keep my inside game and also step out for the 3-ball. I’m not fully comfortable stepping out yet.”
London has yet to make her decision where she’ll attend school next year. Bryant, Lafayette and Manhattan made offers last fall, but she wasn’t prepared to make a decision yet and those schools gave away the scholarships to other players. Iona and Howard are Division I schools interested in her, but nothing is solid yet. She also has interest from the University of Bridgeport.
“I’m hoping to get more offers,” said London, who wants to study sports management or sports therapy. “I don’t want to wait until the last minute, but I’m keeping my options open. I want to make a decision that’s comfortable for me.”
If she doesn’t get an offer she likes, she might take a year and go to prep school to try and get a better offer. Hotchkiss has seen her play and she is looking at other prep opportunities in the state.
“I won’t be surprised when she’s really dominating in college,” Hawley-Stewart said. “She has such an upside and is one of the top players in the last 10 years at Hillhouse.”