By Anthony Caruso III | Publisher
EWING, NJ — Hillary Klimowicz would start her college basketball at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. She would average nearly 10 points per game in her first year at that school.
She would leave the school after the first-year and talk to a former teammate from the North-South All-Star game, who is a member of The College of New Jersey’s women’s basketball team.
She would join the TCNJ Lions team on the advice from Lisa Koch. And the rest is history from there, as Klimowicz is one of the best women’s basketball players to ever play for the Lions.
Klimowicz started her basketball career at Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School, in Scotch Plains, New Jersey. She was ranked among the top 100 seniors in the Class of 2005 in the Blue Star Basketball index, where she was ranked the 79th best player. She finished her high school career as the school’s all-time leading scorer with 1,948 points.
“Playing basketball at SPFHS was a lot of fun,” said Klimowicz. “I played AAU and CYO with a core group of the girls on my team. I especially enjoyed my junior and senior years when we won our county tournament. My senior year especially prepared me for playing division I basketball as my coach had been an assistant at Seton Hall and had played on a championship UNC (North Carolina) team.”
She also played volleyball in high school. She said she played volleyball for a year and a half, but then she decided it would be in her best interest to focus only on playing basketball.
“Volleyball was fun, because it kept me in shape but didn’t burn me out,” said Klimowicz. “I was playing so much basketball at that point; however, that I could not focus on basketball and volleyball while keeping up my grades and being an active member in the jazz band and wind ensemble.”
During the recruiting process, she said she had many schools looking at her to continue her basketball career. She said Boston University, Lehigh, Princeton, Dartmouth, Hartford, St. Joseph’s University, and UNC-Wilmington were looking at her to play college basketball. She would eventually chose to continue her education and athletic career at St. Joseph’s University.
“I chose to go to St. Joe’s to pursue my basketball career,” said Klimowicz. “It was the best school basketball-wise that was recruiting me with the most competitive Conference. I wanted to see if I could be successful in the Atlantic 10 Conference.”
During her freshman year, she averaged 9.1 points per game and 7.4 rebounds per game. She was named the Atlantic 10 and Big Five Rookie of the Year.
“After being a well-rounded student in high school, I pretty much decided that St. Joe’s and any D (Division) I school would be just too much basketball for me,” said Klimowicz. “I felt burnt out after one year and I missed doing other thing besides basketball.”
After one year at St. Joe’s in Philadelphia, she would leave the school. She said she was thinking about going to play at Colby College in Maine, which is where her high school coach from her senior year (Lori Gear McBride), now is the head coach.
She said since she decided pretty late in the year that she was going to transfer, the deadlines had passesd for Colby and she didn’t want to take a year off. So, she talked to The College of New Jersey’s Lisa Koch about what it was like to be a student-athlete at TCNJ and Koch convinced her it would be a better fit.
“I thought I would get the best overall experience at TCNJ,” said Klimowicz. “Since I had to take out loans to go to school after leaving St. Joe’s, I needed to go to a public school and TCNJ is known for it’s high quality academics.”
During her sophomore year, she appeared in 27 games, with 27 starts. She averaged 12.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 2.8 blocks, 0.8 steals in 21.6 minutes per game. She shot 58.4% from the field and 81% from the free-throw line.
She led the Conference in field goal percentage and was second in the Conference from the foul line. She had 9 double-doubles and finished 8th in the NJAC scoring and 10th in the NJAC rebounding.
She was named to the Salem State Christmas Tournament All-Tournament team as well as All-NJAC First-Team.
“Hillary’s game has improved every year,” said TCNJ’s women’s basketball head coach Dawn Henderson of Klimowicz’s sophomore year. “I think it was a natural progression that her ppg (points per game) would improve from freshman to sophomore year. I don’t know her stats from St. Joe’s, but my guess is that her minutes might have grown also.”
During her junior year, she appeared in 29 games, with 28 starts. She averaged 16.9 points, 11 rebounds, 1.34 assists, 4.1 blocks, and 0.8 steals in 27.4 minutes per game. She shot 64.4% from the field and 75% from the free-throw line.
She was ranked second nationally with her 64.4 field goal percentage. She was also ranked fourth nationally with 4.1 blocked shots per game.
She was named the MVP at the Gwynedd-Mercy College Classic and was named to the Marymount University Tip-off Classic All-Tournament team. She also had 21 double-doubles and scored double-figures in 27 of the 29 games.
She was named the 2008 NJAC Player of the Year and ECAC Metro Co-Player of the Year. She was also named the State Farm Coaches’ All-America Team Honorable Mention, as well as first-team All-NJAC and ECAC Metro. She was named the NJAC Player of the Week 7 times and the ECAC Player of the Week twice.
“Hillary is a great shot blocker,” said coach Henderson of Klimowicz’s shot blocking abilities. “She has great timing, but blocking shots is not the primary goal. Playing good defense is our focus and a block might be the end result from that defense. She is also left-handed playing primarily against right handed players.”
During her senior year, she has currently appeared in 25 games, with 24 starts. She is currently averaging 20.4 points, 11 rebounds, 1.92 assists, 4.44 blocks, and 1.04 steals in 25.8 minutes per game. She is shooting 68.8% from the field and 77.6% from the free-throw line.
She was ranked No. 1 nationally in field goal percentage, No. 10 nationally in scoring, No. 32 nationally in rebounding, and No. 2 nationally in blocks. She has helped the Lions to their first Sweet 16 appearance in nearly 10 years, and was named the NJAC Player of the Year for a second consecutive year.
She is a finalist for the Jostens Trophy. She has also been named the ECAC Metro Co-Player of the Year. She has been named the NJAC Player of the Week 7 times, as well as First-Team All-NJAC.
She scored her 1,000 career point at TCNJ this past season, as well.
“Well, I had my 1,000th collegiate career point last year, but hitting 1,000 TCNJ points in three years is quite an accomplishment,” said Klimowicz of her senior year. “I had struggled through an injured rib all year and made my 1,000th point after coming back from sitting out a few games. I was happy to be named NJAC Player of the Year for the second year in a row since there are a number of great players in our Conference. It is always nice to be acknowledged for your hard work.”
After college, she said she is going to try to play professionally overseas. She said she’s not ready to stop playing basketball just yet. She said her long-term goals are to get a Ph.D or a Psy.D in psychology and opening her own private practice. She said she has applied to a number of graduate schools and plan on attending one in the fall if playing overseas doesn’t work out.
“I think that Hillary will take the same work ethic that she displays on the basketball court and be a great success when she graduates,” said coach Henderson.