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Nease’s Camille Hobby named Player of the Year

Nease junior Camille Hobby is The Record’s 2018 Player of the Year after averaging 14.2 points, 9.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks for a team that finished 26-4.

Cosandar Griffin answered the question in almost every gym she entered this season: “Where’s the big girl?”

Camille Hobby left that much of an impression on South Carolina basketball circles.

As much as Griffin, the basketball coach at D.W. Daniel High School in Central, S.C., hated to see the highly skilled post player move to Florida, her addition turned a formidable Nease girls basketball team into a juggernaut.

The 6-foot-3 Hobby produced 15 double-doubles to help the Panthers finish 26-4. Nease cruised to the District 3-7A championship before succumbing to Fort Walton Beach Choctawhatchee in the Region 1-7A final.

The Record’s 2018 Girls Basketball Player of the Year averaged 14.2 points and 9.7 rebounds while adding 1.7 steals, 1.7 assists and 1.6 blocks.

“It means a lot,” Hobby said. “It hasn’t always been easy, but with hard work and dedication (it’s possible). I don’t think I would be Player of the Year without my teammates and their constant support helping me, passing the ball and being good teammates.”

Nease has four future Division I players on its roster, all of whom are juniors. Kiya Turner and Peyton Carter have been a part of the program since they were freshmen. Hobby and junior forward Mykah Eshbaugh — both of whom are the children of coaches — moved to St. Johns County from South Carolina and Kansas respectively.

Before the season began, the talent of the quartet was unquestioned. The only uncertainty was about how long it would take for everyone to coalesce.

“She told me from the get-go ‘I want to play on a team that wants to win. And I want to play on a team that appreciates each other,’” said Nease coach Sherri Anthony. “She knew she was coming in from AAU. She saw Kiya and Peyton playing and she heard of our season the year before. She relished the fact where she said the coaches are intense, they care about winning and the players are used to being in that position. She wanted to experience that.”

Hobby earned South Carolina Basketball Coaches Association Class AAAA All-State honors after averaging 15.8 points and 6.9 rebounds for Griffin as a sophomore. But the Lady Lions were bounced in the first round of the state playoffs.

Her family moved to Florida in June, she enrolled at Nease within a week and by Father’s Day she was on the court playing AAU basketball in preparation for the 2017-18 season.

Those efforts paid off. Hobby’s best games were against some of the Panthers’ best opponents.

She scored 22 points and added 11 rebounds in a 70-50 whitewashing of eventual Class 9A state champion Port Orange Spruce Creek in December. She had a 16-point, four-rebound, two-block performance in an overtime loss to nationally ranked Winter Haven, the eventual Class 8A champ, in January.

Rockledge, Bartram Trail, Ponte Vedra and Fleming Island combined to win 86 games this season. Hobby averaged 13.1 points and 9.5 rebounds in six games against those schools.

Fleming Island made a 3-pointer in the waning seconds of a Nov. 22 contest to leave the Panthers 0-2 to start the season. After the Thanksgiving holiday, Nease turned talent into togetherness and won 26 of its next 27.

“We were really upset and we realized we needed to get better,” Hobby said. “There were a lot of things we knew we needed to work on: Our defense, talking, chemistry on the floor and being leaders.”

When Nease met Fleming Island for a second time, in the St. Johns River Athletic Conference tournament final on Jan. 27, Hobby provided 16 points, 16 rebounds and five blocks in the Panthers’ four-point win.

Initially, Hobby was as silent as a sinner in sunrise service. But as the season wore on Anthony and Turner both noted she was a vocal leader of the team. Whether it was on the bench or in the locker room, she was the one encouraging the Panthers and egging them on toward greatness.

Getting Camille Hobby to vacate her comfort zone is not the easiest of ideals. But, once she is comfortable anything is possible.

Ask Constance and Marion Hobby.

The two of them implored Camille to play basketball growing up, but she wasn’t having it. Finally, she relented as an 8-year-old living in basketball-mad Raleigh, North Carolina.

“My parents, they wanted me to play. I didn’t want to — at all,” Hobby recalled. “Eventually, I played and developed a love for it. By the time I was in fifth grade, I knew I wanted to play in college.”

She will have that opportunity. On March 1, Hobby committed to North Carolina State.

Before returning to Raleigh, Hobby aspires to further refine her game. She believes it’s too premature to think about a run to the 2019 state title, but it’s never too early to discuss the work required to accomplish her goals.

Nonetheless, it will take something special to top the 26 wins — the second-most in Anthony’s 32 years on the sidelines — as well as a 13-0 home record and an average margin of victory of 28 points against county opponents.

Anthony knew from almost the moment she met Hobby that she had the will and skill to be great. There are not many people who not only stay late to get shots up, but bring their own ball with them to the court.

Hobby does. Her orange Wilson has a black “CH” written near the rib and goes with her almost everywhere.

As much as it pained Griffin to have to answer that her All-State center moved to Florida, she was not the slightest bit surprised to hear Hobby has excelled in the Sunshine State.

“Camille always had that spunk. She had the determination to be good,” Griffin said. “You can see it in her eyes. She wants to win and will do whatever she can to push her teammates to win.”

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