By Miguel Rodriguez | August 27, 2020 | Reprinted from buffalonews.com
Another All-Western New York boys’ basketball selection is taking his talents to Main Street, and Daemen College coach Mike MacDonald couldn’t be happier.
That’s because in signing 2019 All-WNY first-team pick and former Cardinal O’Hara star Justin Hemphill, the Wildcats get an athletic and versatile 6-foot-5 forward who can handle the rock, guard all positions and is strong enough to battle in the post for points and rebounds.
“We recruited him hard,” MacDonald said of Thursday night. “I really loved the way he passes the ball. He has great skills for a guy his size. He has a nose for the ball. … He’s unselfish. He’s a winner. He helped bring Cardinal O’Hara back on top.”
Hemphill graduated from O’Hara as the program’s career leader in points (1,676) and rebounds (1,138). During his senior year, Hemphill averaged 15.6 points, 10.4 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game in helping the Hawks set a program record for wins in a season (26).
Moreover, the four-year starter helped O’Hara capture its first Manhattan Cup Class B championship and their first state Catholic title since 1994. A loaded Hawks crew lost a heartbreaker to Glens Falls in the Federation Tournament of Champions Class B final before a mostly pro Glens Falls crowd in Cool Insuring Arena in the host-school’s city. Hemphill posted 26 points and 18 rebounds in that 88-79 defeat – a game in which O’Hara fell behind 18-3 but rallied to pull within 77-74 with 2 minutes left before running out of steam.
Hemphill played a prep season last year at St. Thomas More. He had multiple Division II offers but had very good reasons for choosing Daemen. The biggest: Daemen was one of the first to express interest and never relented.
“I liked how coach MacDonald and Daemen stuck with me throughout the whole recruiting process,” said Hemphill, whose older sister Summer plays at nearby University at Buffalo. “I chose Daemen because I feel like we can do great things down the road. I have a lot of faith in coach MacDonald. He knows the game very well as people have begun to see in the last couple years. I just liked how this program has been going up in the right direction lately I didn’t want to miss the opportunity of being a part of something great and I hope that I can come in and contribute right away to that.”
Daemen finished last season ranked No. 8 in the country and has spent 29 weeks the past two seasons ranked in at least one of the two Division II polls.
“It’s a good spot for him,” O’Hara coach Tony Pulvirenti said. “They’re one of the top Division II programs in the country.”
The addition of Hemphill means Daemen has signed three All-WNY talents as part of its incoming recruiting class. Earlier this month, 2018 first team All-WNY selection Juston Johnson (West Seneca West) signed with the Wildcats. State Class C Player of the Year and second-team All-WNY pick Tyler Hind of Randolph, the section’s all-time leader in three-point field goals, also signed with the college.
They join a program that features returning All-American center Andrew Sischo along with past All-WNY selections Ryan Bradley (Canisius) and Trevor Book (North Tonawanda).
“They can be all good,” MacDonald said of Hemphill, Johnson and Hind. “Playing at the college level is competitive. All these guys have helped raise the profiles of their high schools. Now they’re going to help us raise our profile.”
Photo above: Justin Hemphill, a 6-foot-5 forward for Cardinal O’Hara, will play for Daemen College. Photo By Derek Gee/Buffalo News