Listen to Pusch Ridge girls’ basketball head coach Lonnie Tvrdy speak about senior forward Hannah McLeod, and it’s clear what he thinks.
“She’s the best player in the city,” said Tvrdy. “Her skill level is just really high.”
Pima Community College head coach Todd Holthaus agrees.
On Jan. 14, McLeod accepted a full-ride scholarship to play basketball for the Aztecs next season, and Holthaus is already planning her future.
“We have a freshman guard here named Abyee Maracigan, and I’m just imagining with the two of them on the wings, we’ll have a hand up on just about anyone,” said Holthaus. “(McLeod’s) athleticism and skills are certainly one big thing.”
According to Holthaus, the mental part of McLeod’s game might be just as important.
“She has that winning mentality from being on all those state champion teams,” said Holthaus. “There’s no better place than Pusch Ridge to get that.”
The Lions are currently making a run at their fifth consecutive state title, a feat accomplished only once before in Arizona sports history.
McLeod, averaging 15.3 points per game for the 22-2 Lions this season, has been a significant part of that dynasty, according to Tvrdy.
“She’s played everything from post to point guard and she’s been on three state championship teams in a row,” said Tvrdy. “She’s got so much flexibility and a winning attitude.”
McLeod’s attitude has rubbed off on her teammates and taught something to her coaches, said Tvrdy.
“She’s shown the younger players that you can push yourself to a high level,” said Tvrdy. “For coaches, you have a kid like (McLeod), and you’re thinking ‘Wait, we can really develop this kid more than we think, we can’t give up on anyone.’”
McLeod is ready to continue her development at Pima.
“At the college level, the players there are legit,” she said. “In high school they are not really there for that purpose (of playing basketball).”
She is also excited to play for a young Aztec team that is 16-3 so far this season.
“It’s a good team, that’s a bonus, obviously,” said McLeod. “Some of the players there I’ve seen before are really good.”
Included on a Pima roster of 10 freshmen and two sophomores is ex-Pusch Ridge standout Heather Paddock, the reason McLeod caught Holthaus’s eye.
“We were there recruiting Heather and we saw Hannah, and after she played in our summer league this year, I decided to show her I was serious and offered her the scholarship in June,” said Holthaus.
Although McLeod is ready to embrace a higher level of competition, she’ll miss Pusch Ridge.
“I’ll miss coach Tvrdy, he’s been coaching me since I was in sixth grade,” said McLeod. “I’ll miss playing with the girls.”
Those girls are the ones McLeod is focused on helping achieve the goal of another state title, and as for next season’s starting prospects, “that hasn’t even really been a thought yet,” said McLeod.
“I just want to play,” she added.
Tvrdy has another clear idea: the role McLeod might play next season.
“She’s going to be a help to anyone that needs her,” said Tvrdy.
“And a pain for the other team,” he added with a smile.