Tank rolling in Green Bay
After growing up and playing basketball in Northwest Indiana, Michigan City High graduate Shanquan “Tank” Hemphill had the pleasure of spending his last two winters hooping it up in Fort Myers, Florida.
Now he’s back up north — much further north — shining in the shadow of the Green Bay Packers.
After averaging 17.6 points and 7.0 rebounds per game as a senior at City in 2016, Hemphill decided to fine-tune his game by way of the junior college circuit. And his destination was near Fort Myers at Florida Southwestern College (FSW), which resumed an athletic program in 2015 after discontinuing it in 1997.
Tank averaged 11.7 points as a freshman for the Buccaneers and 14.2 points last season.
“Shanquan was one of the original group that we brought in to start our program,” said Marty Richter, who was Tank’s head coach at FSW. “He was instrumental to our success.”
The JUCO plan worked as Hemphill garnered attention from multiple NCAA Division-1 programs, including East Tennessee State University and New Mexico State. But a Horizon League school in a much colder climate interested Tank.
“UWGB was my focus because when I came on my visit the feeling was just right,” Hemphill said, referring to the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, located on the north side of a city fondly referred to as “the Frozen Tundra” in football circles.
He got his first taste of Green Bay weather on a scheduled visit back in April. It was supposed to be on the weekend of April 14-15, but had to be moved due to a historic snowstorm.
“That was the weekend we got 25 inches of snow,” Green Bay head coach Linc Darner said. “We had to move the visit to the next weekend.”
It was the largest snow accumulation in Green Bay in 130 years, and it came with wind gusts topping 50 miles per hour.
That didn’t deter Hemphill despite the inundation of sunshine the previous two years.
“In Florida for two years, around this time of the year I’d still be wearing shorts,” Hemphill said. “I know (Green Bay) is going to be worse than the Region, but I’m ready. Got my winter coat, hat and gloves.”
The decision came down to the atmosphere and Darner’s “RP40” offensive system that reminded Hemphill of what he ran under coach John Boyd at City.
“RP40 is ’Relentless Pressure for 40 minutes,” he said. “I’ve been running around trapping through high school and JUCO. That’s what I love to do so I knew this was the spot. Plus, the guys really showed me that they care for each other on and off the court. That also played a huge role in me signing here.”
Hemphill joins a team with four other JUCO transfers — TJ Parham from Wabash Valley College, JayQuan McCloud from Highland Community College, Josh McNair from Otero Junior College and Jevon Smith from Iowa Western Community College — as well as a D-1 transfer in Cody Schwartz from San Jose State.
“I sometimes worry about Juco players adapting, but Tank has a great basketball mind and he’s been well-coached,” Darner said. “He has a strong work ethic.”
He specifically recalled UWGB’s 78-74 home loss to Indiana State on Nov. 9.
“The game ended at around 6:30 (p.m.), and I’m leaving at around 9:30 and there’s Tank on the court still shooting free throws,” Darner said.
Hemphill gives credit to Boyd for pushing him to never be satisfied and always work harder.
“Coach Boyd helped me as far as not becoming complacent because at any moment someone can take your spot,” he said. “Juco was a real eye-opener. It helped me take another step because you have to grind every night to get what you want. Everyone on a Juco team wants the same thing you want, so I embraced that every time I got on the court.”
It’s working as Tank seems to be getting better as the non-conference season heats up with some tough games before Horizon League play starts at the end of the month. He’s averaging 14.1 points and 5.6 rebounds per game, fresh off an 85-83 win over Northern Illinois on Nov. 28 in which he scored a career-high 25 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
Coming up is a four-game road stretch starting Dec. 14 in which the Phoenix travel to Creighton, No. 9 Michigan State, Evansville and Milwaukee, which begins the Horizon slate.