“I said, ‘She’s Tank’ and the name stuck. She’s been Tank since she was two days old.”
Shamarre Hale, Wright State basketball
Credit: Chris Snyder
Credit: Chris Snyder
She’s now a 6-foot-2 redshirt sophomore forward at Wright State. Although she plays behind senior Tyler Frierson in the post, she’s been on the court this season nearly as many minutes as has been the 6-4, All Horizon League third-team selection.
And Monday when Frierson got in foul trouble and had to spend considerable time on the bench, Cleveland State initially had to be feeling pretty good. But the more Hale played, the more the Vikings had to be parroting that delivery room doc:
“Oh my goodness. This one is something!”
Cleveland State had figured it would have its hands full with Raiders junior guard Angel Baker, the two-time All Horizon League first teamer who came into the game the No. 4 scorer in the conference (17.3 ppg).
Baker scored 29 points in WSU’s 73-62 victory and afterwards Raiders coach Trina Merriweather minced no words:
“I maintain Angel Baker is one of the best guards in the nation and most definitely one of the most difficult to defend because she can score at all three levels (driving to the hoop, mid-range jumpers and from three point range.)”
Unexpectedly Hale – who made seven of 10 field goal attempts -- was nearly as problematic for the Vikings.
Some of what she did can be seen in the box score – she finished with a season-high 16 points and nine rebounds – but her biggest contribution may be the way she energizes her team when she gets in. She talks and claps and Monday she added one visual that was perfect.
The game had been a back-and-forth affair for most of the first three quarters and was tied 53-53 with less than two minutes left in the third when Hale got the ball inside. In true Tank fashion, she overpowered her defender to score the lay-up and she got fouled in the process.
She let out a yelp of satisfaction as her pumped-up teammates congratulated her. As she stepped toward the free throw line, she gave a sudden muscleman – whoops make that Muscle Woman!!! – pose. And then, even though she’s not known for her proficiency at the foul line, she calmly made the free throw.
It gave WSU a three-point lead that quickly turned into a 9-0 run, something Cleveland State never recovered from.
The Vikings would score just nine points the rest of the game.
The victory put the 17-7 Raiders into the Horizon League title game against in IUPUI today at noon. The winner advances to the NCAA Tournament, something WSU has done two other times in program history.
Wright State's Tyler Frierson puts up a shot during Monday's Horizon League semifinal game vs. Cleveland State. Brian Drumm/Horizon League
In 2014, the Raiders ended up a No. 14 seed and were trounced by Kentucky. Two years ago – after winning a program-record 27 games – they were a 13 seed and played Texas A&M at the Aggies home arena and lost by 23.
Hale was on that team, but was sitting the season out as an academic redshirt to work on her grades.
She had starred at Crete-Monee High School outside Chicago and once she got to play again last season, she showed her hoops prowess. She was named the Horizon League Freshman of the Year.
This season there were some times she struggled.
“She big and strong – she’s got a pro body – but she had to take everything up a notch this year,” Merriweather said “Sometimes a player will underestimate what things are going to look like the following year.
“She had to understand she couldn’t be the same player she was a year ago. She surprised people last season, but this year they knew she was coming so she was going to have play a little harder.
“Today she did just that. She rebounded. She focused on finishing and she hit some huge free throws.”
Hale credits a lot of her development to Frierson, who she goes against in practice every day.
Merriweather laughed when those confrontations were brought up:
“We have a drill called Beast Mode. I can’t take credit for it, I actually stole it from somebody, but it’s really good for both Ty and Tank.
“They’re in there against each other, one on one for 10 possessions, offense and defense.”
“They really go at it. Sometimes we get tears. Sometimes blood depending on how it goes.
“Usually when I mention Beast Mode, they’re PO’d. But I said, ‘Anything that makes you that upset, is going to make you better. You’ll see.’”
And that‘s just how it worked out Monday.
It’s why the Cleveland State Vikings may well have been parroting a Chicago doctor from so many years ago.