By BOB PARASILITI
10:37 PM EST, March 7, 2013
After Saturday, life may never be the same for Antonio Jenifer.
Right now, it’s pretty good, but it may only get better.
Jenifer and the Hagerstown Community College men’s basketball team will face ASA College in the NJCAA District III playoff Saturday at 7 p.m. at the HCC athletic complex. At stake is a trip to the national tournament in Hutchinson, Kan.
That puts Jenifer on the doorstep to meet the world — especially if the Hawks win.
“It is a big part of my life,” the 6-foot-8 sophomore said. “I want to win this game.”
This district game tops a list of things that are or are going to be important to Jenifer. It has a chance to make up for a missed opportunity in the past and set the foundation for his future.
Jenifer remembers what a game like this is all about. He played in the district game last season when the Hawks lost at Monroe (Bronx) in a second straight chance to head to the nationals.
“It feels real good to be back in this situation,” Jenifer said. “Last year, we got to this game and we got lazy. It’s not what we wanted. This year, the other sophomores — Jerel (Carter) and (Antwan) Pittman — and I know what it’s like. We don’t want to just win it, we want to go do things at Hutchinson.”
That’s what makes the future so interesting. Jenifer has many possibilities in front of him, win or lose on Saturday.
“If we get to Kansas, there will be more opportunities,” Jenifer said. “More people will get to see us play and there will be more chances to go to other schools.”
But there is more to it.
“Getting to nationals will be great for the school and the program and the freshmen who will be following me,” he said. “We have a chance to put the school on the map and to get people looking at it. It you elevate the school, more players will want to come here and that helps the school.”
The statement above defines Jenifer. He wants the best for himself while helping his team around him.
“Tony is a humble person,” said HCC coach Barry Brown. “He is a true team player. Most top scorers shoot a lot. Tony only takes what comes to him. I have one of the top scorers in the country and he’s a team player. ... How lucky am I?”
Jenifer has been part of 55 wins thus far in his two seasons at HCC. He arrived at the victories in two different fashions.
In 2011-12, Jenifer was relegated to the paint to work primarily as a rebounder and third scoring option. He did it so well, the Hawks won the Maryland JuCo Conference regular-season and tournament titles and a second straight Region XX championship before losing to Monroe.
He also earned all-American honors.
And yet, this year, Jenifer did better.
Now, as more of a perimeter player, he is eighth in the nation in scoring (20.6 points per game) to go with 8.2 rebounds per game.
“Last year, I was doing what the team needed,” Jenifer said. “They needed me to stay inside and rebound. I scored off the scraps.
“This year, I was able to go up front and show my skills. When I go to another school, I’m not going to be playing inside. Besides, this year we have Kervin (Rameau), who likes to play in there.”
Brown brought Jenifer out from underneath the basket against Vincennes in last year's Region XX tournament to give the Hawks a better defensive matchup while allowing him to display his skills to the tune of 19 points.
“That was Tony’s coming-out party,” Brown said. “When he is out there shooting and he’s feeling it, watch out. He’s going to score. He’s got that quiet swagger about him. You can see it coming.”
While winning would mean a lot, Jenifer knows coming to HCC has helped him in many ways. He sat out for a year after graduating from Potomac, then followed teammate Devin Miller to Hagerstown to play.
He got to play, and got even more out of the experience.
“Coming here taught me to be a better person,” Jenifer said. “It also showed me the importance of an education and how I had to work for it. Getting through classes in high school was easy.”
Playing — and winning — on Saturday is one of the ways Antonio Jenifer would like to say thanks for his time at HCC.
“I want to leave here successful and knowing I gave it 110 percent at all times,” he said. “I’m glad to be a Hagerstown Hawk and I’m glad to have come here and for all I learned. I wish that the next group of freshmen will do all the same.”
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