ST. PETERSBURG — When Kanesha Hall showed up for basketball tryouts in her freshman year at Northeast High, she was just another player who could only dribble with her right hand and couldn’t shoot. She spent most of the season on junior varsity and scored a grand total of 40 points with the varsity.
But Vikings coach Will White saw potential. It was definitely going to take some work, but if Hall was willing to put in the time, White thought she could become a good player.
So “Project Kanesha” started with a roll of athletic tape. White rolled enough tape over Hall’s right hand one day during a freshman year practice that she couldn’t use it to dribble the ball. She had to do everything left-handed.
“It was a big club of athletic tape,” White said. “She could not go any other direction. She had to dribble and shoot left-handed. But she just always wanted to get better.”
While it didn’t happen in just one practice, Hall got the point. She had to be able to use both hands in order to be a better player.
“I would never go to my left,” Hall said. “I had to spend the whole practice that way. It was a challenge, but I got through it. Now I can use both hands. It took a long time but I just put in the work.”
Next it was time to address the other elephant in the gym. Hall was not the greatest shooter. She could get to the basket, but teams would not defend her outside.
“She was good at one thing, being fast and getting to the basket,” White said. “But she could not shoot at all. She started to realize that. I told her that if I was coaching against her, I would back off of her and make her shoot all day. I’m never going to let you get to the basket. She took that to heart. She lived off the machine all summer.”
The machine is the shooting machine. Like a pitching machine in baseball, it automatically passes basketballs. Hall would come into the Northeast gym before practices or over the summer and shoot 3-pointers from various spots on the floor.
Lots and lots of shots.
“I was taking the shots but I wasn’t hitting the shots (in games),” Hall said. “My 3-point percentage was horrible. So I would come into practice 45 minutes early and just use the shooting machine. I’d practice my form. I did that all summer. One time I took over 600 shots in one practice. My arms were tired.”
All of the work so far has paid off. Prior to Tuesday night’s game against St. Petersburg, Hall has scored 1,014 career points four games into her senior year. She is the first player in Northeast girls basketball history to score over 1,000 points.
As a junior, she scored 571 points, which is also a school record. In fact, she set seven school records last season, including highest scoring average in a season (20.4 ppg), Most 20 point games (15) and most 30 point games (four).
This season, Hall has scored a modest 12.3 points per game. That’s because the Vikings have had eight other players score. Vivica McDole and Jada Ballard each have nine points per game. Like Hall, Ballard is also a senior who played junior varsity as a freshman. And like Hall, she has improved much.
Both Ballard and Hall have offers to play junior college next year. Ballard said she isn’t surprised to see her teammate break school records.
“She’s always been a very intense player,” Ballard said. “She’s always attacking the basket.”
Hall is certainly a much different player than when she first enrolled at Northeast. By the time this season ends, she will set a high bar for any future player who tries to break her scoring record.
It didn’t happen by accident.
“She’s a self-made player,” White said. “She really did all this in just two years. She had 925 points in her sophomore and junior years.”
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