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New Jersey hoops star Hannah Hidalgo sets sights on state crown

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Hannah Hidalgo has averaged 21.5 points and 4.7 rebounds per game over the course of her high school career. (Garrett W. Ellwood/USA Basketball)

Editor’s note: This is the first in a five-part series previewing the top five girls basketball players in the Class of 2023. The series counts down to No. 1 and aligns with the start of the 2022-23 high school season. Click here to see the latest rankings from the Class of 2023. Counting down: No. 5 Hannah Hidalgo | No. 4 Aalyah Del Rosario | No. 3 Jadyn Donovan | No. 2 Juju Watkins | No. 1 Mikaylah Williams.

Hannah Hidalgo is one of the most focused players in the nation.

At just 5-foot-7, the point guard has relied on her grit, tenacity and experience to develop into a unique leader for the Paul VI girls’ basketball team.

The senior from Merchantville, N.J. has averaged 21.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 5.4 steals per game over the course of her high school career, including three years as a varsity starter. Following her junior season, Hidalgo was named both the Courier Post South Jersey Player of the Year and the Olympic Conference Player of the Year.

After a loss in the 2022 South Jersey Non-Public A title game, Hidalgo and her teammates have high expectations for the season ahead.

“I’m locked in because of last season,” Hidalgo said. “We’re trying to win a state championship, so I’m locked in, my teammates are locked in. And I’m just excited for what’s to come.”

Coach’s analysis

At Paul VI, Hidalgo is coached by her father, Orlando, who’s seen a tremendous amount of growth in his daughter both on and off the court.

“Hannah brings so much to the game, so much to the team,” Orlando said. “Her freshman year, she wasn’t as vocal. But she knew that she had to be a team leader later on, and the past few years she’s been the team captain.”

The Paul VI star has transformed from a quiet freshman to a senior who can command the room. She’s the first person in the gym, leading everybody through stretches and starting running drills with her team before the coaching staff even steps foot in the gym.

“The team understands how competitive she is and that she’s not going to say something that she’s not going to do,” Orlando said. “Her leadership, her competitiveness brings the best out of all the players. And that’s pretty special for me, as a dad and a coach, to see her lead the team. She’s taken to leadership very well, and we’re proud of her.”

While Hidalgo’s character development has helped set her apart, she has also refined her skills on the court. Since her freshman season in 2019, Paul VI has gone 61-9.

“She’s a player that works out every time after practice,” Orlando said. “After practice, she stays for about a half hour or so and works on her shooting or her handling. Her first two years, that’s something she didn’t do. She wants to be great, so she spends extra time doing the little things.”

Hidalgo also sets an example in the classroom, taking pride in her schoolwork as an honor roll student.

Catching up

Hidalgo has had quite the summer, loading up on opportunities to face top competition around the world. One of those opportunities took her to Debrecen, Hungary, where she played with the United States U17 national team. Hidalgo and her U.S. teammates dominated the international competition, going on an undefeated run to win gold.

Hidalgo averaged 7.7 points, 2.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.6 steals across seven games.

“It was a great experience playing with the best girls in the country,” she said. “I really built good connections. They pushed you, and everyone got better.”

She then took her skills to the Under Armour Next Elite 24 game and the SLAM Summer Classic.

Hidalgo also recently signed a one-year deal with sports agency Seven1 to take advantage of name, image and likeness opportunities. She has yet to make a college decision, but in early August, she announced on Instagram that she had narrowed her choices down to six: UCF, Duke, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Stanford.

Caroline Makauskas is a contributing writer for Just Women’s Sports. She also covers a variety of sports on her TikTok @cmakauskas. Follow her on Twitter @cmakauskas.