After spending the better part of the month of donning white sports tape on the last two digits of his right hand, Cedric Hankerson played his first game of 2015 without any bandages on Wednesday night. While the removal of the accessory may not have drawn the attention of when Lebron James played sans his headband, it was a big moment for Hankerson nonetheless.
For weeks, the 6-foot-5 sophomore out of Miami, played through the pain of a dislocated pinky and found a way to constantly produce at a high level, despite not being able to fully use his dominant hand.
The tape first appeared during BU’s game against Lehigh and continued through their bout against Loyola-Maryland. In those five games, the Terriers’ leading scorer still averaged 15.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 1.8 assists, a slight but noticeable drop from his season averages of 17.8 points per game, 4.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists.
“I could have taken the tape off a couple of games ago but I was shooting so well with it that I might as well keep it on,” said Hankerson.
Going into Wednesday evening’s game, Hankerson felt comfortable enough to try playing without the tape and had an explosive game in the Terriers 59-54 win over American, scoring a game-high 18 points and swiping a program-record nine steals to prove once again why he is one of the top players not only on his team but in the Patriot League.
“I wasn’t really confident that it wouldn’t dislocate again, but I took a chance and it’s pretty fine,” said Hankerson.
Against the Eagles, Hankerson had one of the most all-around games a player could have, grabbing six rebounds in addition to his scoring and defensive efforts.
“It was just sort of the flow of the game,” he said. “I saw that they were carless with the ball a little bit. We played against them last year, so we’re kind of experts on their offense, they like to back cut a lot, at times I saw that coming and anticipated it.”
Hankerson’s record-breaking performance was a result of head coach Joe Jones’ defensive play calling. Throughout much of the game, Jones would switch between zone, traditional man-to-man and three-quarter trap to try and get American to play at a different tempo than their slower Princeton style pace.
“We just want to be active defensively,” said Jones. “We hope that our press could generate some turnovers for us, that was key for us. I thought our guys played with a lot of energy and that created some things for us.”
Also sparking Hankerson’s performance along with the rest of the BU team was trying to get back at American for last year’s Patriot League Championship Game where the Eagles entered Agganis Arena and dismantled the heavy favorite Terriers to go onto the NCAA tournament.
“It’s great to beat American,” said Hankerson. “For the returners, we saw how bad it was to lose to them here at home last year in the championship so we kind of had that edge and that chip on our shoulder today.”
What’s more impressive about Hankerson’s play throughout this entire season is he is doing it in the midst of a position switch. After losing Maurice Watson Jr. in early April, Jones was left with no viable option at the point guard position in terms of starters, forcing Hankerson to pick up more ball-handling duties and move over from the wing.
Certainly, there have been some growing pains, like his season-high seven turnovers against Holy Cross on New Year’s Eve. But for the most part, Hankerson has felt comfortable while making the transition. His ability to be an effective point guard was on display against the Eagles, where he not only scored plenty, but also distributed the ball well, picking up six assists and limited his turnovers to only two.
“I think the more I experience it and have those smaller guards on me, the better I’ll get,” said Hankerson. “I was kind of rough because I was new to it at the beginning of the season but now I’m more settled and comfortable.”
Hankerson’s experience will only continue to increase and with that his level of play. At the beginning of the season Jones told his new point guard that he had the potential of being a First Team All-Patriot League caliber player and with two months left in the season, it is definitely looking that way.