Pint-sized guard Springstead’s Huden is Hernando County’s cage queen

Reagan Huden
Springstead junior Reagan Huden was voted Hernando County’s Girls Basketball Player of the Year. Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO
GIRLS BASKETBALL

5-foot-3 shooting

guard voted 2016-17

Player of the Year

BY TONY CASTRO

HernandoSport.com

Though NFL Hall of Famer Vince Lombardi is no longer pacing the sidelines his vernacular remains.

His insightful language on life and sports has left a blue print on American athletics.

Reagan Huden
Reagan Huden

Though F.W. Springstead junior shooting guard Reagan Lynne Huden has never played football, there’s a Lombardism available to describe how a 5-foot-3, 146-pound shooting guard could be voted to her third All-Hernando County team and be named 2016-17’s Player of the Year.

“The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather in a lack of will.” 

                                                                                                 – Vince Lombardi

Vince Lombardi
Vince Lombardi

Huden 101

Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan

The youngest of two children to Roy and Jennifer Huden was born in Clearwater and yes, she was named after the 33rd governor of California and the 40st U.S. President Ronald Reagan.

Her mom liked the name.

The Huden’s have called Spring Hill home for the past 15 years.

The current blonde-tressed and blue-eyed Huden was literally born a gym rat.

Since her mother worked for the Hernando County Family YMCA in Spring Hill as a coordinator, Huden’s athletic roots date back to when she was three playing at Y.

She alternated between baseball, flag football, soccer and basketball at the local facility until she was 11.

Explorer K-8 Bobcats
Explorer K-8 Bobcats

Once she entered Explorer K-8, Reagan played point guard for the Lady Bobcats for three seasons.

During the spring, she also played catcher on the softball team as a sixth-grader before switching to shortstop as a seventh- and eighth-grader.

Once she matriculated to Mariner Boulevard campus of Springstead High, Huden has played three seasons of varsity basketball under Jay McNerney.

Coincidentally over the last two winters, the Lady Eagles has achieved what no previous Spring Hill basketball squad has ever done: reach back-to-back district finals.

Reagan Huden
Reagan Huden

During that same span, she’s helped guide SHS to its first-ever regional quarterfinals victories.

Since she’s arrived, the pint-sized shooting and point guard has finished first, third and first in the county in scoring race the past three winters.

As a freshman, she carried the team’s offensive burden averaging 17.3 points per game while converting 54 three-pointers.

She demonstrated her versatility pacing the Lady Eagles in assists (3.3 per game) and steals (4.9 per game) .

As a sophomore in 2015-16, due to POY Alyssa Clifton’s presence drawing attention inside, Huden morphed into more of a complete player.

She ranked third in the circuit in scoring at 11.6 ppg, leading the county again in three-point conversions (50). Huden also paced the local circuit in assists (64) and assists per game (2.56).

This past winter, despite missing three games to a knee injury, Huden again led the local circuit in scoring (personal-best 18.8 ppg), in free throw shooting (74 percent), buried 51 (third season with 50+ treys), and finished second in steals (3.68 per game).

Despite a lack of size in a big person’s game, Huden has scored 20+ plus points in 19 of her 64 career games played (30 percent).

Her personal best is 27 points achieved in this year’s 66-57 win over NCT and as a freshman in a 58-39 loss to Dunnellon.

As a senior next season, Huden needs seven points to become first SHS female cager to reach 1,000 career points.

Reagan Huden Photo by JOE DICRISTOFALO
Reagan Huden                                                                                     Photo by JOE DICRISTOFALO

Coaches sing praises

 Jay McNerney Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO
Jay McNerney Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

After three colossal seasons, area coaches raved about her ability

“In Year 3, I saw somebody playing at a different level. Only problem was it was on and off. If she wants to be dominant, she can be,” pointed out McNerney. “It’s amazing how she played through injuries … Her biggest strength? Has to be her court vision. She instantly knows where the next pass needs to go.

“…Reagan has a natural feel for the game. My goal is to get the other players to pick up the slack,” added McNerney. “ In Year 4, she’s gotta develop more of a shot to the basket. Everyone knows she can shoot. I’d like to see her increase her range. She can steal the ball, she can jump – even for her size – but she’s got to be more focused on defensive end.”

“Reagan is a pure basketball player. What doesn’t she do well?” shrugged Hernando High’s seventh-year mentor Kevin Bittinger. “She’s a scorer, she’s an exceptional shooter, and can finish all kinds of shots … When she‘s off the court, we pressure Springstead as much as we can. … She’s a floor general. There’s not much she can’t do.”

Mike Munro Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO
Mike Munro
Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

“First of all, she plays both ends of the floor. She can shoot the ball from distance and from the (foul) line,” offered second-year Weeki Wachee skipper Mike Munro. “She has a great knack of getting her shot off, no matter if we have our best defenders on her. … She has a high basketball IQ and understands what’s going on during a game. Put it all together and you have a pretty good package.”

“Fantastic basketball player … Hard to stop,” described Nature Coast Technical’s Emily Gore. “ She gets to the rim and can create. … Her range is so surprising. She’s the type of player you have to guard all the way to the white line.”

“She’s tough as nails. She works hard on her game. She almost single-handedly took the game over at Springstead,” noted veteran Central skipper Penny Gressick. “If you guard her you want to run at her; she can stroke it. Even with us playing the taller (Mykenna) Corbett on her, she still gets the ball off and has a quick release.”

On her reaction to the selection, “I thought it would be close. There are a lot of great players here,” indicated the 16-year-old Huden. “I was happy and honored to be selected.

“I owe so much to my teammates and not one specific person. I have to thank Sarah (Vo) for her support. We had a great defender like Tierra (Houston) and Yhanni (Batts), for getting the rebounds.”

Reagan Huden
Reagan Huden                                   Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

Mirror, mirror

Looking back, Huden wholeheartedly believes she made the correct choice in playing hoops.

Reagan Huden
Reagan Huden

“I love basketball. I have had the interest in the game for so many years,” she said. “I saw the potential and thought I could do better in basketball.

“I might be 5-foot-3, but I go out and try to win every game. I know I have to give it my all,” offered Huden. “I get pumped when I make a steal that leads to a basket. That’s the best feeling in the world.”

In breaking down her game, “My strength? Its in making plays for my teammates. My weakness is in my decision making. It’s not always the best thing to fire a pass to someone who’s not looking for the ball,” said Huden.

In the classroom, Huden’s favorite courses include U.S. History and biology. She carries a 2.9 unweighted and 3.2 weight grade point average.

She’s currently undecided on her future major in college, but aspires to own her own business some day.

“I hope basketball helps pay for my education at the next level,” explained Huden. “I’d love to play in state, but I’m kinda an independent person so I wouldn’t mind playing outside Florida, either.”

Short-term goals

After dropping back-to-back district title games to Sunlake, Huden hopes next year will be the charm.

“My main goal is to win a district championship. It’s never been done here,” stressed Huden. “We’ve come so close the last two years. It would be a great experience for all of us.”

On eclipsing 1,000 career points, “I can’t put that achievement into words; it means so much to me,” said Huden. “I really wanted to get it done last year. Had I not gotten hurt, I feel certain I would’ve put it behind me. I’ll be so grateful when it happens. A lot of credit belongs to my teammates who have been here.”

Peering ahead, “We’re gonna miss Sarah (Vo) and Tierra (Houston) and all the graduating seniors. There are some newcomers,” said Huden.

Jay McNerney
Jay McNerney

On her relationship with Coach McNerney, “Coach gets on me constantly. He’s been hard on me. But it’s tough love,” described Huden. “He wants the best for the team and me. He makes sure I’m doing things correctly. I know he’s doing the best for me. It’s all out of love.”

When she’s not playing hoops, she hangs with her friends, especially sidekick Delaney Woodall.

On her favorite non-basketball topic, “I love Reagan and mom day. That’s when me and mom just go shopping and have fun being girls,” grinned Huden.

Will Huden suffer from senioritis? Not in a million years.

“As a senior I want to be better,” she said. “I’m definitely not sitting back and relaxing. I’ve got to continue practicing hard.

“I hyper extended my (left) knee and it’ll never be 100 percent. It was a major injury, but I can play,” said Huden.

Somewhere in the heavens, Coach Lombardi would agree.

By the Numbers:

Springstead’s Reagan Huden (2014-17)

– Compiled by TONY CASTRO

Reagan Huden
Reagan Huden
YEAR YR GP FG 3-PT FTA FTM .PCT TP PPG

2014-15

9

20

119

54

98

54

.551

346

17.3

2015-16

10

25

105

50

55

29

.527

289

11.6

2016-17

11

19

116

51

102

75

.735

358

18.8

TOTALS 64 340 155 255 158 .620 993 15.5

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