SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - For the first time all day, IPFW senior Amanda Hyde was stopped cold. No, that never occurred during the 39 minutes of action against Denver in the Mastodons' opening game of the Summit League Tournament. It happened during a postgame interview.
“Um,” Hyde muttered through streaming tears when asked to reflect on her career.
And that was it for a moment.
No team had been able to stop Hyde for four seasons, but the realization that her career was over proved too much initially.
The forward from Findlay (Ohio) arrived back in Fort Wayne (where she was born and raised through elementary school) with little fanfare, but Mastodon coach Chris Paul knew what he had in Hyde.
“From day one,” Paul said of knowing her potential.
Hyde played a lot of minutes through her first two seasons, but when she became an upperclassmen last season, Paul had a talk with his budding star.
“I can't thank coach Paul enough for the opportunities that hes given me,” a finally composed Hyde said. “My junior year, he just handed the team to me, basically. He put all of his trust in me to lead us.”
She didn't disappoint.
Hyde had never averaged in double figures, but doubled her production from nine to over 18 points per game as a junior. That earned her the Summit League Player of the Year award, but she wasn't finished.
She took her scoring to another level this season (22 points per game) and was rewarded with a second Player of the Year honor, which only four other players have achieved.
“She's incredible,” Denver coach Kerry Cremeans explained. “She really is. For seven days, our focus has been about Amanda Hyde. She gets it done in the way that she can just wrap herself around and split defenses and make things happen.”
In Sunday's tournament loss, Hyde was limited to just six points in the first half, but exploded for 22 points in the second half on a series of driving, crafty, unorthodox maneuvers through traffic, as Cremeans alluded to. Hyde finished with a game-high 28 points, as well as grabbed five rebounds and passed for three assists.
“We always talk about the accolades,” Paul said, “and she is a phenomenal basketball player. But she's a better person.”
Hyde finished as the program's fourth-best scorer and most accurate free throw shooter, and in the end, despite her appreciation, Paul felt a sense of guilt in regards to Hyde.
“Ultimately, I've got to look in the mirror because I fell like I let her down,” Paul said. “She gave us four years, gave me and my family, and this university, four years and I can't even put into words how much it means to me.
“Not to leave anybody out, but I really wanted to send those seniors (including Rachel and Stefanie Mauk, and Jessie Manwaring) out on a little bit higher note.”