City grad 'Tank' Hemphill rolling to Drake
When ShanQuan (Tank) Hemphill put his name in the transfer portal after Green Bay coach Linc Darner was let go a few weeks ago, the texts and calls started coming in from a group of friends who had a couple things in common -- one, Northwest Indiana roots, and two, Drake University basketball.
"One of my first calls was from the twins (Tremell and Anthony Murphy)," the Michigan City graduate and Phoenix junior said.
Drake's 2019-20 roster included five Region natives in the Murphys (Griffith), Roman Penn (Bishop Noll), Jonah Jackson (Merrillville) and lifelong friend D.J. Wilkins (Merrillville). Tremell Murphy red-shirted after playing in six games.
"I've known D.J. since I was real little. We grew up in the same area," said Hemphill. "I got to know the twins in Griffith in seventh grade. They're some of my best friends. We have a very tight bond. That's about when I got to know Roman, too, my middle school years. I played AAU (Blue Chips) with everybody except Jonah. I would always play open gym with all of them."
Wilkins and the Murphys also shared the court with Hemphill at Florida Southwestern State, a junior college where they were coached by Martin Richter. When Richter took an assistant's position on new coach Darian DeVries' staff at Drake in May 2018, the Murphys and Wilkins followed him to Des Moines with Penn joining as a Siena transfer. On Wednesday, Hemphill, a 6-foot-6 forward, completed the set by announcing his decision to join his friends and former coach.
"I enjoyed my two years with coach Marty and he was talking highly about coach DeVries, how great he is," Hemphill said. "I talked to coach DeVries on Zoom. We had some conference calls with my mom on the line. We were asking him questions and he's a really straight-up guy. I can't wait to play for him."
As Hemphill's news crossed Twitter with the words, "New Home (dog emoji), Iron Sharpens Iron (fingers crossed emoji), and For The REGION (black heart emoji)," his Region boys were some of the first to react.
"Aye. It’s A Good Day. Welcome Family," Wilkins tweeted.
Drake went 20-14 this season, falling in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament semifinals to eventual champion Bradley. It returns everyone but Anthony Murphy from its top nine scorers for 2020-21.
"I'd visited the twins at school. I've seen the campus, so I know what to expect. I'm not coming in blind," Hemphill said. "I feel like it's going to be a big year for Drake."
Hemphill chose Drake over Youngstown State. Towson, Morehead State and Green Bay were also in his final five, and while he was happy at Green Bay, he didn't want to take the chance on committing his senior season to an unknown coach.
"I talked to the A.D. and he said he didn't think they were going to get it done until the first week of June," Hemphill said. "The main reason I entered the transfer portal was I didn't want to get stuck in a situation I didn't want. I wanted to open up my options."
Darner's exit from Green Bay was unexpected. The former Purdue player guided the Phoenix (21-17) to the CIT championship in 2019 and they went 17-16 this season.
"It was a huge shock," Hemphill said. "It came out of the blue. Nobody even knows the reason behind it. Everybody was blindsided. Coach called me before the news got out to let me know what was going on. He didn't want us to hear it on Twitter and stuff. We had a very tight relationship. I was looking forward to to my senior year with him at Green Bay. We had a lot of transfers go out, but we had some recruits, some junior college guys, coming in. I think with the core of P.J. (Pipes), Amari (Davis) and me, it would've been a great year. I'm sad I don't get to have it with those guys."
Depsite playing on a balky knee as a junior, Hemphill managed to average over 11 points and five rebounds a game, starting all 38 games He went for 21 and 11 in the CIT final with Marshall. He had a PRP (platelet-rich plasma) injection after the season to treat tendinitis but it didn't help so he underwent surgery in July. He played in the November 6 season opener at Purdue but was limited to 11 minutes and promptly shut it down to red-shirt. He was rehabbing on campus when COVID-19 ended the school year in March.
"I was two weeks away from five on five," he said.
Back home in Michigan City, Hemphill is continuing therapy at Athletico to maintain his strength, though like many athletes, he has limited resources for working out, let alone playing.
"Not everybody has a gym or a weight room they can get in consistently," he said. "But the NCAA's going to open voluntary workouts for individuals and small groups (Monday), so I'm hoping to get out (to Drake) in early June. I still have (the power). I'd always windmill and 360 (dunk) in practice, now I just pick and choose."
At the same time, Hemphill is wrapping up school work remotely for a final class to complete his requirements for a Bachelor's degree in Psychology.
"I got to walk in JC, so as long as I get that paper, it's all good," he said. "Everything's great here. My mom's working at home. I'm just chillin', staying safe at home."
A team MVP as a senior at Michigan City, Hemphill was also a key member of a Wolves track team that finished second in the state in 2016. City narrowly missed what would have been an improbable title behind a small but talent-laden lineup of Hemphill, Daniel Armstrong (Marquette), Makiyah Smallwood (Nebraska/Grand Valley), Matthew Lockridge (Indiana Tech) and Jacob Adams (Vincennes).
"He's a great kid," said Westville boys basketball coach and Athletic Director Drew Eubank, who was a Michigan City boys basketball and track assistant when Hemphill was there. "He's going to do good things."
Michigan City graduate ShanQuan Hemphill will play his senior season at Drake. The 6-foot-6 forward transferred from Green Bay after Phoenix coach Linc Darner was fired. Hemphill, who red-shirted this season, joins a Bulldogs roster that will include four other Northwest Indiana players. (Image provided)