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Basking in a hometown glow

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Jennifer Blanding was happy to be home last weekend.

The Notre Dame Prep (Mass.) senior returned to Brooklyn to play in the Big Apple Recruiting Christmas Classic at Bishop Ford.

“I love playing in front of my friends and family,” Blanding said. “I just love it.”

The St. John’s-bound center put on a pretty good performance for her hometown fans, scoring 15 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and blocking three shots in an 85-36 over ASA Institute on Saturday. The outing could have been even better had the 6-foot-3 Blanding not been saddled with foul trouble for most of the game.

Blanding, who is from Bedford Stuyvesant, is part of a stellar incoming recruiting class for the St. John’s women’s basketball team that features local stars Amanda Burakoski (Mary Louis), Eugeneia McPherson (North Babylon) and Nadirah McKenith (University High, N.J.).

Blanding is ranked 15th in the Northeast Class of 2009 on BigAppleRecruiting.com, and ESPN.com lists her as the 25th-best player at her position. She chose St. John’s over American, Duquesne, Morgan State, Rutgers, Syracuse, Seton Hall and West Virginia. Blanding wants to play in the Big East and idolizes Rutgers senior center Kia Vaughn.

“It was hard, but I love playing in front of family and I want to take St. John’s to another level,” she said.

Nicknamed “Big Love” for her jovial personality at the Rose Classic tournament in Brooklyn, Blanding has the size and skill to certainly help make that happen.

“She is a big sweetheart,” Notre Dame coach Jeff Hammond said.

Except to her opponents.

Blanding can unleash a powerful spin move as part of her array of moves in the post, goes hard after rebounds and is an adept shot blocker. While Blanding jokes about learning to “make a layup” during her two years at Notre Dame, there is still much for the former student at Boys & Girls HS to improve on.

“Offensively, it’s tough because she likes those spin moves and there are not many girls who have the height to stop her,” Hammond said. “She can shoot the ball and I’d like to see her develop more of a mid-range game. In practice and in pick-up games she will display those moves. It’s just in a game she immediately spins and takes everything to the hoop strong because she hasn’t met many girls her size.”

Blanding said her mid-range game is “coming along.”

Hammond said Blanding has also improved her conditioning, her man-to-man defense and her ability to run up and down the floor more consistently, all keys to being a productive player on the next level.

“People don’t think of her being a fast runner up the court, but she runs it very well when she is motivated to do so,” Hammond said.

Blanding, who wears a Big Love nameplate necklace, is motivated by fellow AAU and Notre Dame teammates Milan Germany and Gina Pena, fellow New Yorkers and teammates with the Exodus AAU program. Blanding and Germany were nearly inseparable over the weekend and could be seen exchanging friendly barbs and instructions throughout the game.

“We all love each other,” Blanding said. “We are all sisters. We all coach each other. We know when we tell someone something it’s to help them.”

It helps Blanding to always feel right at home.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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