Lions captain found basketball and never looked back

It’s a good thing senior interdisciplinary business major and women’s basketball captain Jessica Imhof moved from Hillsborough to Flemington in the third grade, otherwise the team’s current leading scorer very well may have never started playing the sport in the first place.

Imhof averaged over 12 PPG on the season. (Jess Davis / Staff Photographer)

“My mom wanted to get me started in something interactive, to help me meet new kids,” Imhof said. “I haven’t stopped playing since.”

And lucky she didn’t. The senior guard is now winding down her fourth and final season of Lions basketball with some impressive stats. She’s racked up 293 points so far this season, averages over 12 points per game, makes over 80 percent of her free throws (83.3 percent), over 40 percent of her attempted shots (43.1 percent) and almost 40 percent of her three pointers (37.3 percent). Her previous seasons have been equally as stellar — she finished the 2011 season leading the team in 3-point field goal percentage, free throws made and steals. And she’s in a good position to repeat that accomplishment.

Though proud of her individual accomplishments, Imhof is quick to stress the importance of collective team goals.

“It’s important for everyone to set individual goals, but if the team doesn’t perform, your individual ones don’t matter,” she said.

The team unfortunately lost in the NJAC Tournament, in which they were billed as the “dark horse” of the competition, Imhof said.

“This means that we’ve been determined to have enough potential to surprise some people,” Imhof explained.

Of course, the NCAA Tournament was on the team’s mind, as it is “in every athlete’s mind,” Imhof said. “Our goal is to reach different platforms and experience different playing fields. Teams and players want to challenge themselves. Being the best — playing the best. That’s what we want to do.”

Head coach Dawn Henderson is feeling confident that the players accomplished many of their goals this season and that they had the potential to finish strong.

“There are probably a couple of games we would like to have back, but for the most part, I think we have done very well,” she said. “This has been a close group, a group of fighters. I would like us to continue toward our goals together as a cohesive group. If we do that, the sky is the limit.”

Henderson also had high hopes for Imhof’s final weeks of the season.

“I’d love to see her finish out strong in all areas of the game,” she said. “If she is a presence at both ends of the floor, we are a better team.”

The team “family” mentality has been Imhof’s favorite aspect of playing basketball, especially at the College.

“You spend so much time together that you really start to lean on each other outside of the court,” she said. “Obviously there are specific things I love about the game itself, but the community of who you play the sport with … that’s what I love. You can have a bad game or an off-day, but at the end of it, you still have your teammates there with you.”

Finishing a last season is an emotional milestone for any athlete, and Imhof is no exception.

“I’m terrified and extremely sad,” she said. “I’ve been trying to embrace every moment. I’d like to say that I’m never going to stop playing. It’s not something I’m going to give up on easily.”

Overall, Lions basketball has greatly shaped Imhof’s experience at the College.

“(Basketball) has been the majority of my college experience, from the hours it takes to maintain a position, to the amount of time in the gym, to the relationships I formed.”

In the future, Imhof isn’t entirely sure where she will take her business degree and sociology minor, but she hopes to somehow involve basketball.

“Basketball is more than a hobby,” she said. “It’s such an obsession. We do what we do because we love it.”