If you ask Hanover Park (NJ) Boy’s Basketball Coach Todd Hartman who his favorite high school hoops player is, he will tell you, “Not Jaylin. She is not there yet,” he quipped.
Joking aside, that is the kind of loving, respectful relationship Jaylin Hartman has with her dad.
Hartman plays basketball for Blair Academy, a highly-acclaimed high school girl’s hoops program in Blairstown, N.J., that she sought out for herself.
Hartman, a rising junior, contacted then-coach Quint Clarke and asked him to come and watch her play at Mendham Township Middle School. She drained 38 points in that contest.
“She has always been her own advocate,” Coach Hartman said. “She contacted the coach on herself.”
Presently, Hartman owns a promising future, and is already garnering a ton of notoriety and respect on the New Jersey hoops scene as well as from college coaches. Hartman said she holds offers from Seton Hall, Maryland, Harvard, UPenn, Rutgers, Northeastern, and Rhode Island.
What makes her so valuable is that the 6-foot-2 player can do a number of vital things on the court well: rebound, play defense, shoot from a distance, and thread a needle with a pass. But Hartman’s best attribute is the fact that she is a total team player.
“I can pass really well,” Hartman said. But “I rather see my teammates score than me. Winning is the most important thing to me.”
Hartman and her Lady Buccaneers teammates faced adversity last season, just like so many other student-athletes across the country. Blair Academy played only one game last campaign due to COVID-19, which caused the inability to travel out of state to face their usually national-loaded schedule.
Therefore, Hartman needed to lean on her AAU season to keep the needle moving in the right direction. But she said that it did not work out with her former team, the Philly Belles. Hartman said that their coach, Mike Flynn, had stepped down from his coaching perch, and it left Hartman, as well as other players, having to leave the only AAU program she had ever known.
Off Hartman went in search of a new program. She played with three different teams in total before winding up with the NJ Sparks. She performed well and continued her progress.
“Obviously, I was frustrated because I wanted to play,” she said of Blair Academy’s lack of a season. “But we isolated with the boy’s team and developed a great team bond. It was like going to summer camp. The whole group is like family to me.”
As for her AAU squad search, Hartman said, “I don’t like moving around, but I was looking for somewhere to go. I put a lot of pressure on myself, and I put a lot of pressure on my AAU season. I’m still trying out what type of player I am, but I was happy with the way I played.”
Part of Hartman’s impressive skill set and hoops acumen are due to her dad, who started bringing her to practices as a kid. As she grew older, so did her interest in the sport. She even plays members of Hanover Park’s boy’s team, which Coach Hartman does not permit his boys to let up on her.
“I tell them they have to play Jaylin hard,” Coach Hartman–the longest basketball coach at the school, with 18 years to his credit–said with a chuckle. “Otherwise, I will make them run laps.”
Hartman said being a coach’s daughter is not always easy for her. But she demands a lot from herself, and sometimes, she said, she can be her own worst enemy.
“I’m a very ambitious person,” Hartman, who owns a 5.3 GPA out 6, explained. “I always want to impress, especially as a coach’s daughter. I want to be the best I can be. Sometimes, it gets in my head.”
To help with the mental aspect of the sport, Hartman see a sports psychologist, which, she said, is helping her deal with the pressures of the game, especially when it comes to adapting to new situations.
“To do that with no high school season, and do it in a month, she put added pressure on herself,” Coach Hartman said of his daughter playing well with the NJ Sparks. “Once she got comfortable, she became the great player she is.”
As for a being a well-rounded, versatile player, Coach Hartman said, “She is a Swiss army-type of player.”
But the longtime Hornets coach said that since she can perform well in all elements of the game, that she needs to keep working on everything on the court.
“When I take off my dad hat and put on coaching hat, I tell her that she has to work on all aspects of the game,” Coach Hartman said. “That will make her un-guardable. She doesn’t have the luxury of specializing. Because of that (type of all-around training), her confidence level has gotten so much better. I want her to love basketball for the great game it is.”
Hartman said she enjoys the flexibility of being a many-sided basketball player.
“I don’t like to be limited to one position,” she said. “I can play them all, one through five.”
Coach Hartman said that one steadfast rule they adhere to is to not talk about the game and the way she played until their car ride home. But make no mistake, he relish in the time they spend together on and off the hardwood.
“There’s nobody I rather spend my time with,” he said. “She’s going to be a star. She’s does things the right way.”
— Jerry Del Priore
(Photos: The Hartmans).