GVSU women’s basketball senior Korynn Hincka enters fourth year as team’s leader

GVL / Sheila Babbitt
Korynn Hincka scores for her team at the scrimmage against Olivet on Sunday, November 5th, 2017.

GVL / Sheila Babbitt Korynn Hincka scores for her team at the scrimmage against Olivet on Sunday, November 5th, 2017.

Brady McAtamney

College teams rely on their seniors for leadership and production.

Think of big-time collegiate legends like Denzel Valentine or Malcolm Brogdon—both are athletes who spent four years at the same university and developed from young adults to established leaders both on the court and off of it. Whether you like them or not, they changed their programs for the better and are now making an impact beyond college.

The Grand Valley State women’s basketball team is no stranger to utilizing their seniors’ abilities to lead younger athletes to grow. This was certainly the case in the 2016-17 season when the team rallied around seven fourth-year players and chugged ahead to a 24-8 record and NCAA tournament berth.

Things are different for the Lakers this year. With their wealth of seniors graduated, they find themselves with four freshmen, six sophomores, two juniors and a single senior.

That senior is starting center Korynn Hincka, a 6-foot-1-inch Swiss army knife on the basketball courts out of Posen, Michigan.

“It’s definitely a big change from what I’m used to in the past,” Hincka said. “We graduated seven seniors last year, and it’s just been different moving into a leadership role. There’s a lot of communication, especially with the younger team that we have this year. I’ve been with different groups that have had a lot of leaders (to learn from).”

Luckily for her, one of the juniors on the team, forward Taylor Parmley, was redshirted as a freshman. This means that she is a senior academically and plans to graduate in the spring, so Hincka does not have to handle the burden of leading an extremely young squad by herself, though she is the sole four-year player on the team.

As a freshman at GVSU, Hincka saw limited minutes in a reserved role but still managed to average 3.1 points and 3.9 rebounds per game and swatted away 22 shots, good for second most on the team in 27 games played.

Poised for an expanded role as a sophomore, she began to break out in a crucial reserve role and saw her numbers jump up to 6.1 points, 5.6 rebounds (most on the team) and 1.1 blocks per game in the first 18 games of the season before a season-ending ACL tear struck.

“It’s crazy to even think back that it even happened, but the (recovery) process was hard,”  Hincka said. “Anybody that’s had a serious injury knows that you have to have a lot of patience. You learn to appreciate the game more and the abilities that you have, and that’s something that I’m thankful for. I feel that God always has a plan, and as much as it stunk to tear my ACL, God had the plan in order for me to become successful for the rest of my college career.”

The injury served as a taste of adversity for the up-and-coming star, and while nobody wishes to suffer such a setback, especially during a breakout campaign, it helped to teach her how to deal with these kinds of major roadblocks as well as give her the ability to focus on being more of a teammate.

“She’s had to bounce back from a knee injury, so she knows how to deal with adversity,” said head coach Mike Williams. “She knows what some of these younger players have had to go through because she went through it, too. 

“It took a couple of years before she got major minutes, major playing time, so I think when players who haven’t played come to her she can relate and just say, ‘Hey, you have to pay your dues.’ So I think she’s a great liaison for our younger players.”

Once returning to the court during her junior year, Hincka’s numbers dipped from what they were before the ACL tear. She played in 29 of the team’s 32 games and averaged 4.1 points and three rebounds.

Now, six games into the 2017-18 campaign, those modest numbers appear to have been nothing more than a minor setback for a major comeback. So far this season, Hincka is averaging 9.5 points and 8.7 rebounds per game and is shooting 48.9 percent from the field and 42.1 percent from 3-point range, despite being the second tallest player on the team.

Despite her impressive offensive metrics, though, Hincka admittedly prefers defense over every other facet of the game. In the summer between her junior and senior seasons, she could often be found in the gym working on her game and becoming the player she is now—an inside presence who can score in the paint and swat shots, yet stroke long-range daggers and hang with players smaller than she on the perimeter and prevent them from scoring.

“(Her versatility) gives you options,” Williams said. “You can put her in there with different combinations of players. If you go with a bigger lineup, she becomes more of a perimeter defender, perimeter player. If you go with a smaller lineup she becomes more of an inside defender and inside player on offense. It allows you—she’s got that flexibility—it allows you when you sub to keep her in there and put her wherever you need to put her. It’s unbelievable how much she helps us.”

There is one caveat that comes with her aggressiveness and hands-on play that gets Hincka and the Lakers in trouble: fouls. She already has 17 personal fouls through six games, checking in at second most on the team, and has fouled out of one game already against Southern Indiana on Saturday, Nov. 25, after playing only 12 minutes. Coincidentally, that game was the only one the Lakers have lost so far this season.

“It takes a lot of focus to not foul because as soon as you lose focus, you do silly things,” Hincka said. “That has been a big thing, and I picked up a few fouls in one of our past games, so just making sure that I stay focused.”

Her focus and dedication led to a 10-point, 13-rebound performance the next day in a 77-63 pounding over Bellarmine—a game in which she picked up only one foul in 36 minutes on the floor.

Simply put, Hincka is simply too good to not have on the floor. But do not let her talent cloud her dedication to basketball or passion for performance. Not everybody can rebound from a torn ACL and take a valuable lesson out of it to help teach her younger teammates like she has.

“As a person, she’s a person of high character,” Williams said. “She’s an unbelievable teammate. She does everything you would want in a teammate. As far as her coach, she’s a coachable student athlete. Driven, very driven to do her best. Just extremely hard work ethic and just gets it done.”

With the team’s 5-1 record so far this season, and Hincka’s impressive numbers already on the board, she has high hopes for her and the Laker squad she has dedicated herself to leading as the senior center.

As far as what she expects to happen, though, she acknowledges that it’s simply not up to her.

“Whatever God’s plan is, it is what it is,” she said. “I’m just going to roll with it.”