Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
Jonathan Castner / BoCoPreps.com
When bringing up the name Izzy Hren, Holy Family girls basketball coach Ron Rossi can’t wait to hear what other people have to say about her.
Then, when that person is done heaping praise on the now-senior Tigers guard — the long-time coach finds about a dozen other things about her yet to be brought up.
For Holy Family’s athletics, Hren has been a beaming example of dedication and work ethic. For Rossi’s basketball team, she’s been as valuable as any player that has ever donned the uniform.
“It takes a real passion to do athletics with the kind of effort Izzy does, and it really comes down to her competitiveness,” Rossi said this week, ahead of the official start of basketball season on Wednesday. “She wouldn’t want to lose a game of Monopoly, that’s how competitive she is. She’s all-conference in multiple sports. She does a great job at dividing her time so that whatever sport she’s in, she gives it her all while being able to work on her other things.
“She’s one of the best players I’ve ever had at going to the rim, but she can stop and shoot so well, too. And she can play all positions so she’s tough to defend.”
Hren is coming off a junior season in which she led the team in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals. For a Class 1A school with seven or eight girls just fielding a team — that might not be a big deal. But leading the Tigers, a 4A school that competes year in and year out for deep playoff runs, that’s attention-grabbing.
Her all-out play exemplifies how she takes on life, as a student and as an athlete. After all, in addition to playing club basketball Hren runs cross country in the fall and doubles up between soccer and track in the spring.
She’s finished in the top 50 at the state cross country meet each of the past two years (41st this past season), placed 48th in her classification at the Nike NXR Southwest Regional Championships on November 18, helped Holy Family place fifth in the 3,200-meter relay at state last spring and also has four career goals on the soccer team.
“I’ve always ran cross country and track since middle school, and I always played basketball and soccer since I was younger. When it came time for high school, I just couldn’t quit any of them,” Hren said recently about her busy schedule. “I just had to stick with all four. My parents are very patient with me, especially with late-night studies, and my coaches are excellent at helping me balance things.”
She doesn’t necessarily identify with one sport over the other — “I just list them in order of season,” she said — but her on-court presence has certainly in some ways mirrored that of another great recent player, Katie Chavez.
In 2015-16, Hren’s sophomore season, Chavez led the team in three of the four big categories (Hren had three more total rebounds on the season). The Tigers made the 4A final four.
Hren wants to get back to that level after HFHS made the Sweet 16 last year. She trusts herself to be the quarterback on the court and to relay the coach’s ideals to the rest of the squad, which this season consists of six new varsity players.
Amanda Ward is the only other returning starter for the Tigers, while senior Paige Giltner leads a small group of five others with varsity experience.
“I try my best to follow what Rossi has for us and just vocalize what he wants out there,” added Hren, whose averages hit 11.4 points, 5.7 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 3.3 steals as Tri-Valley League player of the year. “Katie was really good at being vocal as the point guard, helpful getting the underclassmen comfortable on the court and also directing traffic with the upperclassmen. That’s a lot of what I got from her, watching her handle that role.”
At a scrimmage day this past Saturday, Holy Family played three consecutive 35-minute scrimmages with 5-minute breaks between. The Tigers may have been weary by the second and third sessions but showed they were going to play the run-and-gun style they have come to know.
Hren was at the heart of that, making all the work look easy.
“She’s one of those players that does make it look easy, but one of the outstanding things about her is she is very selfless,” Rossi said. “She’s battling for triple-doubles every game.”
Holy Family begins the season ranked No. 9 in the CHSAANow.com preseason poll.