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“The sky’s the limit” for Nicole Cardano-Hillary

MASON FRESHMAN HAS BEEN ALREADY NAMED A-10 ROOKIE OF THE WEEK FIVE TIMES

By Natalie Heavren, Staff Writer

Nicole Cardaño-Hillary, a native of Madrid, Spain, has been around basketball longer than she can remember. Her mother, Erin Hillary, played while the family still lived in Spain and Cardaño-Hillary began playing when she was in third grade. Growing up, she looked up to her mom. Though she only coached Cardaño-Hillary’s AAU team for one year, her mom was still influential in her basketball career.

Cardaño-Hillary is one of four freshmen on the Mason Women’s Basketball team and has been contributing since she first set foot on the court. In her first game in green and gold, she scored 22 points, had two assists and three steals in 32 minutes against a ranked Michigan team. She hasn’t slowed down since.

She has started every game this season, though looking at her play you’d never know that wasn’t the original game plan. Head Coach Nyla Milleson touched upon the fact that this starting role wasn’t supposed to start so soon.

“She got thrown into the fire to be a starting point guard with the injury of Alexsis Grate,” said Milleson. “So we’ve put a lot of pressure on her on both ends of the floor, but I think she has performed very well.”

Performing very well is an understatement — Cardaño-Hillary has been named Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week five times so far this season. This is in part due to the fact she is the top scorer in the conference, averaging 18.2 points per game. Her success hasn’t been stagnant either, as Coach Milleson pointed out.

“I think if you’ll compare her conference numbers to her non-conference numbers her turnovers are down, her assists are up, her steals are up,” explained Milleson. “So I think the growth is not only showing to a naked eye particularly game in and game out but I think from a statistical standpoint too.”

Despite her individual success, she is still humble. According to Coach Milleson,“you would never know off the floor she’s our leading scorer.”

Her humility carries on in both her individual goals and the goals she has for her team. Cardaño-Hillary explains that she wants to be “a solid, poised teammate, player, and a consistent person all around.”

“Just to be consistent, because we don’t want to be one of those teams that was just a one-year thing,” said Cardaño-Hillary. “You know to keep it up and show that this program is actually good and we’re getting better as time goes on. And I feel like if we keep it up that would be the biggest accomplishment.”

The best advice she’s received is simple.

“Honestly, to have fun. Because this sport is very consuming, and even more now that we’re in college,” said Cardaño-Hillary. “I’ve always been told I play my best when I’ve having fun.”

Having fun has gotten her this far, and can certainly take her further. As Coach Milleson said, “the sky’s the limit.”

Photo Courtesy of Mason Athletics