With a sinking suspicion, Duncanville star Hannah Gusters excels near and far
The guards were guarded.
Deja Kelly, a University of Texas recruit, wasn't open. Sarah Andrews, the No. 4 prospect in the espnW Terrific 25 for the 2020 class, was being overplayed. But Nike ProSkills needed a 3-pointer to tie it in the waning seconds of a recent game.
Avery Brittingham, who had the ball in her hands, looked to her right and spotted her 6-foot-5 center Hannah Gusters calling for the ball.
"Oh Lord," Andrews said when asked what she was thinking when the ball went to her good friend Gusters. "She's a pretty good shooter if you ask me -- inside the 3-point line. But this wasn't normal."
Gusters, though, shot the ball with confidence. Standing about three feet behind the line, Gusters swished her shot as the buzzer sounded.
"It felt right," Gusters said. "I knew it was right. Deja and Sarah were swarmed. I asked for the ball, and I got it at the perfect time."
Nike ProSkills went on to defeat Boo Williams 84-83 in double overtime. Gusters finished with 19 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks, shooting 9-for-13 from the floor.
"It was something to remember," Gusters said of her performance. "I'm still going to stick to the part of the court where I'm dominant, down there on the block.
"But it's good to know I can step out and hit 3-pointers. I like my soft touch. My shooting percentage is really high -- almost everything I put up goes in."
You can't blame Gusters for such faith in her shot -- she made 61 percent of her attempts as a sophomore at Duncanville (Texas), and Nike ProSkills coach Earl Rooks said Gusters' sweet shooting touch -- together with her size -- is what separates her from most players. Gusters is the No. 7 prospect in the Terrific 25. She's also the next in a long line of stars at Duncanville, a program that has won 10 state titles, including four in the past six years.
The list of Duncanville stars includes former Longhorns guard Ariel Atkins, who is now in the WNBA as the Washington Mystics' first-round pick; power forward Tiffany Jackson, a former first-round pick who played nine seasons in the WNBA, including most recently with the Sparks in 2017; and guards Cierra Johnson (Alabama) and Zarielle Green (Tennessee), who will play college ball this winter.
Gusters, who has a 3.4 GPA and is interested in studying psychology in college, appears to be next, and she is getting interest from the who's who of college coaches.
"All of them," Gusters said when asked which schools are recruiting her, "but specifically UConn, Notre Dame, Baylor and Texas.
"I like it -- it's good. It reminds me of how hard I've worked. And it's starting to pay off."
Added her mother, Sheridane Gusters: "She's trying to see who wants her on their team. I told her there's no pressure -- she's just a sophomore."
Height and might
Gusters' maternal grandfather, the late Dewey Turner, was a towering presence on the football field for the Texas Longhorns. Sheridane Gusters, a single mother who is 6 feet tall and played high school basketball, lost her father to a car crash when she was 4.
But there can be little question that Turner's athletic ability and size have found a worthy home in the granddaughter he never met, whose full name is Hannah Heaven Paulette Gusters.
Doctors predicted Hannah would grow to 6-foot-2, but she shot past that mark in eighth grade. Now 16, Gusters has grown an inch and a half in the past year, but that's tapering compared with her previous rate.
"For a while, she was outgrowing her shoes every two months," said Sheridane, a special-education teacher.
Soccer was Gusters' first sport. But, at age 7, she asked her mom if she could play basketball, and that's been her sport ever since.
She started working with Rooks in seventh grade, when she was about 5-foot-11. Rooks has helped her with strength, conditioning, knowledge of the game and competitive drive.
But there was one thing she already had even before meeting Rooks.
"She was a natural when it came to putting the ball in the hole," Rooks said. "She always had a great shooting touch. That's what makes her the No. 1 center in the country."
Quest to be best
Gusters can grab the rim, and she's been working on dunking, which perhaps helps explain why the backboard that hangs in her backyard is broken.
"I don't know exactly what happened," Sheridane said with a laugh.
Gusters was a part-time starter as a freshman, when Duncanville won the state championship.
Duncanville coach Cathy Self-Morgan said Gusters got "stronger and stronger" each week as a freshman and then averaged 13.3 points and 7.4 rebounds as a sophomore.
Unfortunately for Duncanville, the team -- which went 39-2 -- fell short of what would've been a third straight state title, losing 60-48 to eventual champ Plano in a regional final.
Duncanville, which was ranked third in the nation at the time, had won 34 consecutive games -- including a 12-point victory over Plano -- when the upset happened. Gusters, who played all 32 minutes, produced 12 points and 17 rebounds.
"She played her best, but we ran out of gas," said Self-Morgan, adding that Plano had more depth than her squad.
"Hannah's been more of a beast this spring than she was in the season. If she continues to work hard in the weight room, she will make quite a few All-American teams."
Gusters will attempt to make the USA U17 team later this month in Colorado, and her mother marvels at her daughter's skill.
Sheridane said she had a conversation with her daughter at the start of the school year in which Hannah's goal was to earn a college scholarship.
That goal seems modest now.
"It surprises me how far she's come in such a short period of time," Sheridane said. "After the loss in the regional final, she was devastated. That loss drove her."