On Feb. 11, the Chapman women’s basketball team needed a spark.
It was halfway through the first quarter in its game against the California Institute of Technology, and the Beavers were starting to disrupt the Panthers’ momentum, double-teaming their key starters and using their size to keep Chapman’s forwards limited to tough shots. Chapman held an unconvincing 10-8 lead, and with Caltech gaining momentum, the Panthers’ six-game winning streak looked on the line.
Enter junior shooting guard Jaime Hum-Nishikado.
In the span of just two minutes after stepping onto the court, the 5-foot-7-inch Hum-Nishikado scored three 3-pointers and a jumper to help the Panthers to a 24-8 lead. With the Beavers’ momentum stifled, Chapman went on to win the game by double digits, and Hum-Nishikado walked away with 27 points comprised mostly of seven 3-pointers in 18 minutes of action.
“I just know that it’s my role to shoot,” Hum-Nishikado said. “I guess that is my specialty. It just seems that’s how the games set up. No one really guards you outside of the 3-point line because they don’t expect people to shoot that far out but I can, so I just use that to my advantage knowing that I can shoot farther than the 3-point line.”
While Hum-Nishikado starts the majority of games for the Panthers, her biggest performances this season have come when she has come off the bench to make instant impacts on close games.
And if there’s one thing the San Rafael, California native has anything in common with the Golden State Warriors besides being from the Bay Area, it’s their shared love of deep shooting. Hum-Nishikado’s tendencies to shoot from far distances and score improbable shots means that it isn’t uncommon to hear fans at Chapman home games drawing comparisons between her and star Warriors guard Stephen Curry.
“I’ve always been a Warriors fan,” Hum-Nishikado said. “I’ve had that role as a shooter since I was growing up. But then when Steph Curry came (to the Warriors) and was shooting 3-pointers and scoring all the time, it became a bigger thing. I was like, ‘Whoa, I want to get better at that.’ So it’s not like I started shooting 3-pointers because of that, but the timing was just kind of nicely intertwined.”
This season, Hum-Nishikado is averaging 11.1 points per conference game, making her tied with sophomore guard Jaryn Fajardo as the Panthers’ third-highest average scorer in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC). But the more telling statistic about Hum-Nishikado is how she scores 18.4 points per 40 minutes (the length of an NCAA women’s basketball game). It’s Hum-Nishikado’s efficiency in scoring that makes her such a weapon off the bench.
“(Hum-Nishikado) is, in my opinion, the best shooter in the league,” said senior guard Megan Charles. “Teams have to respect that and it helps us open up the floor for her and other shooters. She’s a spark on defense too. We can always count on her at the end of a game.”
Hum-Nishikado has embraced her role as a shooting specialist for the Panthers and has no problem coming off the bench into games as opposed to starting, which is often the case for her in order to surprise opponents.
“When I start on the bench, I see what my teammates are doing and what the other team is doing,” Hum-Nishikado said. “So I can assess and have more time to see and figure out like, ‘Oh, there are the spots that are open,’ or ‘Oh, that person’s kind of weak on defense, I can probably attack that person.’ I just always have to be ready to shoot, because if I don’t, I’ll get pulled. Coach Jue will pull me out if I don’t shoot.”
However, Hum-Nishikado’s surprise factor may be starting to wear off for regular opponents.
“We know she’s a big 3-point threat,” said California Lutheran University senior guard Jessica Salottolo. “We always expect her to shoot whenever she has (the ball). She’s just one of those people who makes big shots.”
Hum-Nishikado’s ability to turn close games into blowouts with her 3-point shooting may be crucial to the Panthers’ playoff hopes. After losing to Cal Lutheran in the semifinals the last two seasons in a row, with another playoff rematch between the two teams looking probable, Hum-Nishikado thinks this year can be different.
“We figured out that when we start (games) out really strong and come out of the gates hard, we can play and beat any team that we want,” Hum-Nishikado said. “It doesn’t matter what they’re doing – it’s about our defense and our intensity levels. As long as we keep that up, then we can beat anybody.”