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All-Area Girls Basketball: A story worth sharing

Strewn amongst the clutter of Jennifer Hansen's room lie 20 or so unfinished books. They are stories that were born from interesting ideas, but which she never quite figured out how to finish. The books are just part of it.

Hansen has a binder full of poems, short stories and other scribblings the Le Grand three-sport star has jotted down over the years.

Hansen's love of writing runs so deep she's considering a career as a sports journalist.

But in her home, Jennifer's writing is more myth than reality.

Hansen's parents have gotten a small taste of their daughter's talent, with the occasional award-winning essay or an A on research paper.

The trove of fiction in her room, however, is rarely seen by anyone else.

"I'm a shy person," Hansen said. "I think I'm a good writer, but it's a very personal thing.

"I don't really show what I write to anybody."

Hansen has a similar disposition on the basketball court.

She's been content to do those behind-the-scene things to help her team win, Hansen prides herself on defense, rebounding and passing -- all the while, avoiding the spotlight if she can.

Well, until this season.

"We lost four seniors from last year's team, and everybody was calling this a rebuilding year," Hansen said. "I was, like, 'Hello, I was on that team, too.'

"I knew we were going to have some talented players, but I also knew they were going to be young. As a junior with the most experience, I knew I'd have to take a different role."

Once she adjusted to the new team dynamic, Hansen became a triple-double threat every night.

Hansen's season average of 17 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals helped turn Le Grand's rebuilding year into an undefeated Southern League romp -- a second straight conference title.

For her accomplishments, Hansen is the Sun-Star Girls Basketball Player of the Year.

"Having watched her play since the eighth grade, I knew (Jennifer) was capable of having the kind of offensive season she had for us," Le Grand coach Danny Crosby said.

"What I didn't know was that she'd be able to get all of the rebounds and steals and other things that she did, as well.

"If you look at her numbers, you'd think it was a post player we were talking about. Of our 24 games, she had something like 18 double-doubles.

"It's funny, because she doesn't want to be a star. But her competitive nature won't allow her to sit back and not be one."

By the way, Hansen is listed at 5-foot-6, but her mother insists that's "stretching it."

Despite all the later success, Hansen's road to a second straight league MVP award began with a few bumps.

The junior shooting guard struggled with finding a balance in her new role -- and a broken toe slowed things down, as well.

And Le Grand opened 0-3.

"I had to learn a lot about being a leader," Hansen said. "My coaches were telling me to shoot more when I already felt like a ball-hog out there. It was tough to find a balance."

A loss to Delano in the Chowchilla Tournament at the end of December finally proved something to Hansen.

Delano made a defensive adjustment after Hansen scored 16 points in the first half.

You could call it a box-and-one, but it's only a slight exaggeration to say that Delano put the "box" on Hansen and took its chances with everyone else.

Basically, Delano shadowed Hansen with a single defender, shifted its entire defense to whatever side of the floor she took the ball and then guarded the area close to the basket.

The gamble was that Hansen wouldn't dare shoot in so much traffic -- and that her teammates either would have to launch from a bit of distance or from spots that made them uncomfortable.

And the strategy worked, spectacularly.

Le Grand scored just four points in the second half, two of them by Hansen.

"After that game, I finally realized what I had to do," Hansen said. "They took me out of the game and we just couldn't score. It actually helped me."

Hansen realized that she had to get her share of shots, no matter how many defenders came flocking around.

So she did.

And with Hansen secure in her role, her teammates began to find theirs.

Le Grand (19-5) closed the regular season with 14 consecutive victories, culminating with Hansen's 24-point, 11-rebound, 11-steal, 11-assist quadruple-double against Denair on Feb. 4.

Le Grand fell to Colfax in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoffs, but Hansen didn't dwell on the loss.

With six players returning next season -- including all five starters -- Hansen can barely contain her excitement.

"We came so far this season. It was me and four sophomores," Hansen said. "We're going to be able to do some things next year. I wish we could get going right now.

"I think this season was really good for me. I become a little more outgoing all the time.

"Who knows, maybe I'll even let my mom read one of my stories."

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