Pershing High’s Caprice Dennis entered the girls’ basketball season as the consensus No. 1-ranked player in the state. The Doughgirls’ 5-9 senior point guard is now focused on finishing the season on a state championship team.
“Every team I’ve played on at Pershing has been different, and I just feel like there’s something special about this team,” said Dennis, the Detroit Public School League Proud Strong Learner of the Week. “We have all the right pieces to win a state championship. It would mean a lot. A championship is everything I’ve been working toward since I was in the ninth grade.”
Dennis, who is averaging 29 points, 11 assists and four steals, is a major reason the Doughgirls have charged through the first half of the season with an 8-0 overall record, including a 5-0 mark in the PSL East.
“She’s just maturing, that’s what it is,” said her dad, Pershing coach Shawn Hill.
Everything that I’ve taught her she’s just bringing it out now. It’s nothing different than what I expected. She’s maturing and playing up to her capabilities.”
Dennis likes that the Doughgirls are hardly a one-person show. Her sister, guard Nijzah Hill, and center Monique Howard, who lives with the coach’s family, are also key players.
“We’ve never had a post player who could score at will, and Monique gives us that,” Dennis said. “Obviously, we have Nijzah who can do a lot of things. We just have a bunch of pieces that make us a good team.”
Dennis, because of her top-ranked status, is being recruited by many of the nation’s top collegiate programs. She withdrew an early commitment to accept a scholarship at Kansas and, though the Lady Jayhawks are still in the running, she is still weighing her options.
“Right now, I’m focusing on Pershing because this is our season,” she said. “I really want to be close to my head coach at whatever college I choose.
“The decision I made was just too quick, to be honest. I didn’t give any other colleges a chance and I hadn’t seen any other campus at all. I just went off the feeling I had at the moment. I’m not saying Kansas is not the place, but I want to be sure if it is.”
Hill says his daughter’s talents have placed her in a unique position to help teammates and other PSL players be seen by college recruiters.
“She hasn’t decided if she wants to stay close to home or go far away,” Hill said. “She’s recruiting the colleges that are recruiting her now. She’s doing something a lot of kids don’t do. Basically, she wants the schools to come see her and the rest of the kids in the PSL. By taking her time, she’s taking advantage of the opportunity for some other kids to get scholarships.”
Hill has completely rebounded after undergoing knee surgery for a torn meniscus she suffered playing summer ball.
“At first I didn’t think it was that serious,” Hill said. “I thought she had just tweaked it. But she wound up having to have surgery and it took her maybe six weeks to come back. Everything is fine now, but we’re still watching her to make sure it stays that way.”
Having lost the PSL championship to Renaissance the last two years and also falling short of the state Class A championship, Dennis is driven to reach the team goal that’s evaded her thus far.
“I would love to play Renaissance and beat them for the championship, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen,” she said, noting that Renaissance is rebuilding and not considered a title contender this season. “But who’s to say? I just want to win it. Whoever it is, we’re going to come to play.”
Dennis expressed pride in being a part of Pershing’s basketball tradition, which now features the girls’ success just as prominently as the boys.
“It’s not just basketball, it’s a family with Pershing basketball, boys and girls,” she said. “The legacy is winning basketball. But it’s mainly being a part of the Pershing family that makes it so special.”
The Detroit Public School League Proud Strong Learner of the Week Award is representative of the league’s top boys’ and girls’ athletic performers and is sponsored by local Detroit area McDonald’s owner-operators