Hannah Saliba ‘shoots’ for a career in professional basketball

Gauchos Hanna Sabila calling for the basketball No1 21 pass from No3 Deja (dominic/photographer)

Gauchos Hanna Sabila calling for the basketball No1 21 pass from No3 Deja (Dominic Ebel/Lariat)

Chicago born Hannah Saliba started athletics early in life at the age of 8. She was a three sport athlete, combining soccer and volleyball before she narrowed down basketball as her primary love. Basketball being her favorite sport as she grew she started to imagine herself becoming a professional player basketball in the future.

Early in her basketball quest, she tried out in Niles North feeder team and made the cut out of 60 girls. Her frame and agility seems to be a good combination as she stands strong at 6 feet 2 inches. She has a good posterior on the court and is willing to do what it takes to play hard.

“[I’m] excited for Hannah a good player, but a great person,” said Fentriss Winn, head coach.

Her dream was kept alive even though she was moving out of the United States to Lebanon in 2009. Her basketball career would continue as she found a club she joined called Harlem, that wasn’t that well known. The coach who found her saw she had potential to develop her basketball skills. He became her private coach.

“It was pretty hard for me to move to Lebanon freshmen year of high school because it was a new country, new language, new people,” Saliba said. ”At first it was hard but with time I got used to it and when I got involved in basketball there it helped a lot with settling in and doing something I love.”

She moved to a better club called Antranik and played on the third division team. After competing that season in the summer her opportunity call came in which she seized the moment. This was one of her early biggest moments was getting selected to the Lebanon national team. She earned this honor at the age of 16, beating 80 other girls going for the same opportunity.

“Chicago Sky is one of my favorite basketball teams because Elena Delle Donne is one of my favorite players and I’ve always admired the way she plays the game,” Saliba said. ”If any, I would probably want to play there. Nothing feels better than playing at home.”

Her accomplishments further now her being the starting sophomore forward at Saddleback College having these highlights and stats in her games. Out of Christian Teaching Academy in Beirut, Lebanon, she played with the 18-under National team before she came to Saddleback College. She played in all 29 schedule for the Gauchos during her freshman year. Saliba averaged 8.6 points and 8.0 rebounds per game, 34 blocks, 20 steals, 22 assist and 206 points as a Sophomore and started playing all 24 games, 28 minutes each.

“I had Cal state Maritime contact me, UCR, San Diego Christian, Fresno Pacific University and I have been emailing back and forth with SDSU,” Saliba said.”San Diego State University is my dream school so I will do my best God willing to go there and if it works out for me then I could finally say I made it.”

Big plays in critical moments is how I describe Saliba play. She is a hawk on the basketball court with her size and agility. Saliba demands to be doubled teamed to stop her on offense. In the Fullerton College basketball game, she showed how they had to collapse on her play to stop her. In the December Fullerton game, Saliba came out of the gate quickly and never looked back.

Saliba lead an 11-2 attack in the opening minutes as Hannah Saliba scored seven points against Fullerton. They had no early answers for the 6-foot-2 forward from Lebanon.  Once the Hornets finally clamped down on Saliba, Troncea Bennett took over and put the game out of reach.  Bennett finished with a game-high of 21 points, scoring eight points in the second quarter as the Gauchos carried a 26-15 lead into the locker rooms.

Saliba lead the charge for second straight win 52-49 over Orange Coast. Saliba again opened the scoring in the second half when she made a layup to get the Gauchos within two points at 29-27 with 8:48 remaining in the third quarter. From that point forward the game was on the shoulders of two players, Saliba and Bennett.

The two scored eight of the final 10 points for the Gauchos while the defense shut down the Pirate offense.  Saliba’s layup with 1 minute 48 remaining evened the score at 46-46.  Bennett would then get to the free throw line with under a minute remaining, burying both shots.

Gauchos took a 48-47 lead with 57 seconds remaining.  Saliba would again score on the final possession of the quarter to get the Gauchos within one with 10 minutes remaining in the game. Sophomore Hannah Saliba lead all scores 17 points and top rebounder 13 as the Gauchos moved up in the Orange Empire Conference standings.

Since Sabila was one of the 12 players who won gold medals representing Lebanon she hangs  a gold Medal on her neck at the age of 16, committing herself to earn the honor. Now she excels on working hard to achieve her goal to play hard earning a four year College and an opportunity to play at the professional basketball ranks in the WNBA.