Graduate student and New York native Andra Espinoza-Hunter has already begun to make her mark on the women’s basketball team. After an impressive high school career, she became an established player at Mississippi State after transferring from the University of Connecticut at the end of her freshman year. Adjusting to a new program may be difficult for some, but Espinoza-Hunter is fitting right in.
“Everyone has made it a smooth transition for me,” Espinoza-Hunter said. “There have been no bumps in the road, and everyone treats me as if I have been here since day one.”
There were initial concerns over Espinoza-Hunter’s eligibility for this season, but she was granted a legislative relief waiver by the NCAA in late December to begin play with Seton Hall this season. She scored 21 points between her first two games for the Pirates against Providence and Villanova, but she has since scored at least 23 points in her five games since with a season-high 30 points against St. John’s.
In a season plagued by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is hard to tell what the future holds, especially in a Big East schedule where games are tightly packed together within a few days of each other and teams are travelling across the country for these games.
Even while taking all safety precautions and following COVID-19 guidelines, the Pirates have experienced two breaks in play due to positive COVID-19 tests. Other Big East teams have experienced similar breaks, and that’s led to as many as three games being scheduled within the span of a week to make up for lost time.
“It’s sad not to be able to play some games, but sometimes it’s great to play three games in a week,” Espinoza-Hunter said. “It feels like high school or AAU all over again. It does take a toll on the body because I haven’t played in a minute, but I am happy to be here and on the court.”
For not having played in a while and quickly getting back into playing shape, the week of Jan. 11 did not stop her. The Pirates faced Butler twice and Marquette once, winning all three Big East games. Espinoza-Hunter averaged 24 points and shot 20-for-30 from the three-point arc across those three games.
“My teammates find me in such great spots,” Espinoza-Hunter said. “They have a lot of confidence in me, and after coming from my last school, my confidence was a little shaky. Having Desiree, Lauren, and the coaching staff supporting me in everything I do has really made this transition easy.”
Espinoza-Hunter points out how assistant coach Jose Rebimbas has been a big supporter in her game since she has started at Seton Hall. His advice has helped whether she is shooting around before or after games.
Looking ahead at the rest of the season, Espinoza-Hunter says her biggest focus right now is staying healthy and taking it one day at a time. She and the Pirates will finish off a five-game home stretch against DePaul on Wednesday, Jan. 27 in search of a sixth consecutive win before a week-long break in the schedule.
Jenna Powell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.