Vikings fired up about bona fide head coach
Taking over a high school basketball program is no easy task in the best of circumstances, and doing so in the middle of an unprecedented global pandemic only adds to the difficulty, but the North High School (NHS) girl’s basketball team is all in on its new coach: a former all-pro named to the helm last June.
Brianna Hypolite has had a long, decorated basketball career. After growing up in small-town Dickinson, Texas, where she recorded more than 2,100 points, 1,500 rebounds, 300 assists and 300 steals at Dickinson High School, Hypolite went on to play four years for Rice University in Houston.
Hypolite wasn’t finished, and leveraged her college play into a professional career in New South Wales, Australia, where she snagged the Waratah League MVP in 2013. After one season down under, Hypolite returned to Texas where she would become a trainer and coach for the National Basketball Academy—an organization for elite high school and middle school players. Most recently, Hypolite was the first head coach of Northfield High School in east Denver from 2015 to early 2018, while also chasing her master’s degree in urban education from the University of Denver. But NHS was an opportunity she could not pass up, she said.
“Just look at the school. It’s one of the oldest schools in the area, and it’s had a huge impact on Denver. As a city, it’s seen the immense growth that Denver’s had over the last century, and just the legacy that the school has,” Hypolite said. “It’s really a bedrock and foundation of our neighborhood and the city itself, so I really wanted to have an opportunity to help build and facilitate that legacy by coaching here.”
Last season was rather rocky for Hypolite’s Vikings squad, but that was a common theme for all high school programs in the U.S. The team went 6-8 in a season riddled with cancellations, stop-and-go practice schedules and fluctuating rosters day in and day out. Plus, the team had five freshmen, three of which were starters.
It helped that Hypolite was an assistant coach for the team in 2019 before taking over the following year, she said, but a lot of growth was necessary for her team to be successful. It can be difficult to implement a new system and culture when she didn’t know which players would even be available on gameday, she said, but Hypolite is a no-excuses-allowed type of coach. The team has come a long way in a short time, she added.
“There was a huge learning curve. (Last season) they were coming from middle school, seventh and eighth grade, so we put them into the fire straight away, and they’re battling against 17 and 18-year-olds with more developed bodies and years of experience. What I’ve seen the most out of our players over this time is such maturity, and they’re able to handle stuff way better than they were 18 months ago,” she said.
The Vikings began the 2021-22 season with a three-game win streak, which was a great omen for Hypolite’s squad and its trajectory. Hypolite wouldn’t name a ceiling for her team this season or beyond, and said she has all the confidence in the world that NHS is a championship-level school, with championship-level facilities and student athletes.
Having seen the game of basketball from a worldly perspective, and having achieved the highest level of success from high school to the pros, it’s clear Hypolite can be a major catalyst and example for the Vikings’ success for years to come.