- Photo courtesy of NEW HAMPTON PREP
Samantha Brenner drives the lane during a recent game. Now a junior at New Hampton Prep, the Nashua native has drawn the attention of college scouts.
Nashua native becomes college hoop prospect at New Hampton
NEW HAMPTON – Standing beyond the 3-point line, holding the ball over her head, 6-foot, 3-inch Samantha Brenner has a lot of options.
She could quickly square her elbow and release a 3-pointer, fire a two-handed pass to an open teammate, or bring the ball down for a quick drive into the paint.
That the prep school junior and Nashua native can do so many things well, at her height, has an increasing number of Division I college coaches taking the long ride to Northern New England to see her play.
If they were there on Wednesday to watch Brenner and New Hampton Prep toy with visiting Phillips Exeter Academy, they were treated to her full repertoire.
Her 17 points included a pair of 3-pointers. She made medium range shots and scored with some deft moves in the low post. She was aggressive at the defensive end, using her long arms and quickness to pester smaller opponents into mistakes. She blocked a couple of shots.
If you remember the tall, lean girl from her days at Nashua Catholic or Elm Street Middle School, you might have seen the potential. Now the finished product is beginning to emerge.
“One of the best things about Sam is she’s an all-around student athlete,” New Hampton head coach Darren Redman said. “She can post up with her back to the basket, she can step out and shoot the three … and she’s getting a lot quicker.
“Smaller, quicker players used to be able to get her in foul trouble because she was always trying to block their shots. We’ve convinced her to not always go for the block, to play hard defensively, rebound, and stay in the game.”
When it came to picking a high school, Brenner weighed a lot of options, but ultimately New Hampton proved to be the perfect fit.
“I’ve always been really independent,” Brenner said. “I went away to camp when I was really young. Living on my own was the biggest step.
“I toured other prep schools and would look at their schedules and see closes games or loses to New Hampton. I didn’t want to tour New Hampton, but I came here and I loved it. It’s exactly who I am.”
Brenner said a love of the outdoors, snowboarding and hiking in particular, was one draw. The academics are solid and in terms of basketball, New Hampton has built a women’s program that now rivals its long established men’s program in terms of competing for championships and producing scholarship level talent.
In terms of her development as a player, Brenner gives a lot of credit to her AAU coach Scott Hazelton. She plays for Hazelton – a former McDonald’s All-American, Central Catholic High School (Lawrence, Mass.) and University of Rhode Island standout – with the Rivals club, which includes two of her New Hampton teammates.
“Scott gave me the confidence to shoot from the outside,” Brenner said. “I’ve always had the shot, but it’s not normal for a 6-3 girl to shoot 3s.
“Scott yelled at me when I wouldn’t shoot it and having that support has really helped me.”
Brenner sees herself as more of a power forward than center at the next level.
“I’m a lot better facing the basket,” Brenner said. “That’s something I really like to work on.”
Brenner knows she has to continue to get stronger and works out regularly with New Hampton’s strength training staff. She said she’d like to improve at going hard off the dribble.
“I need to play more like a guard, drive to the basket more,” Brenner said. “I don’t see myself as having a specific position, just the skills to play a lot of different roles.”
Where she’ll play them next is the big question. Brenner, who says she’d prefer to stay on the East Coast, would like to go to as high a level as she can, so long as she can play right away.
According to Redman and athletic director Jamie Arsenault, the former New Hampton men’s coach, there has been a lot of interest from schools like Marist, Vermont and Sacred Heart.
Reaching higher, at least in terms of competition, Rutgers has expressed interest in Brenner.
“I think there’s still a lot of untapped potential there,” Arsenault said. “A girl that big with the ability to play outside … I’m not sure there is a ceiling.
“What she does the rest of the season, this spring and summer, will help sort things out.”
Brenner, who says sports management and pre-law are likely college majors, is pretty sure about one thing.
“I’d like to coach,” Brenner said. “That will definitely be part of my future.”