Hevynne Bristow Makes Difference In JMU’s Win Over Old Dominion

Image courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications

By Daniel Merriman

James Madison women’s basketball defeated Old Dominion 72-64 on Saturday, another victory for the Dukes in the in-state clash. The Royal Rivalry has engaged in-state fans, but the Dukes have dominated the Monarchs since joining the Sun Belt.

Specifically in women’s basketball, JMU has flipped the series with the Monarchs on its head by winning nine games straight. The game’s MVP was Ohio State transfer Hevynne Bristow, who scored a career-high 20 points. Let’s take a look at Bristow’s story and how her addition to Sean O’Regan’s squad raises their ceiling tremendously. 

“This is where I thought she could be … I still don’t think she’s peaking, I think it’ll be mid to late February when we find our flow with her,” O’Regan said.

Bristow’s waiver process

The Brooklyn native came into this season under unique circumstances. She was a two-time transfer with previous stops at Providence and Ohio State. The NCAA didn’t allow her to immediately play after a waiver request was submitted by JMU, although she was hopeful entering the season she would be deemed eligible.

The waiver request from Coach O’Regan and his staff was denied (The Dukes and NCAA aren’t exactly on phenomenal terms after the football season). Bristow was expected to sit out a year and then play in the 2024-25 season.

After a recent court decision, the NCAA relaxed its restrictions on two-time transfer rules. This change in rule enforcement allowed Bristow to play in the 2023-24 season if she wanted. Bristow and O’Regan spoke and she decided that she wanted to play this year. She suited up for her first game against Maine on Dec. 17. She scored six points and secured seven rebounds in that contest, which was only nine games ago. 

After slowly integrating herself into the Dukes’ offense, she exploded against ODU. Bristow attacked the basket ferociously and efficiently. She finished the ballgame 7-9 from the field. She also hit a three versus the Monarchs.

Editor’s note: Thanks to Christopher William Jewelers for their advertising support this season.

Bristow’s major impact

Her game looks very comfortable and poised. At 6’1”, her athleticism and size allow her to bully smaller defenders. She is a force when she is aggressive and on balance. Her length also provides immense defensive value. She had a block in the ODU game and is also averaging a career-high 0.8 steals a game off the bench. 

After the best performance of her collegiate career, Bristow was beaming with energy and was very excited to say “hello” to her grandmother who lives in Belize during the postgame press conference. O’Regan commented on how Bristow has been working in the gym constantly with assistant coach Neil Harrow. Overall, it sounds like the transfer and waiver process were emotional, and it was clear the Old Dominion game meant a lot to her.

“It’s been hard,” Bristow said. “Going from 0 to 100, 100 to 0, twice in a season.”

She ultimately said that the process has paid off.

“It was worth it because there was some days later toward Thanksgiving break, I was really putting in a lot of extra work in the weight room,” Bristow said. “We were planning for next year but it paid off.”

Bristow’s impact on both ends could become invaluable as this team’s aspirations of repeating as Sun Belt champions continue. Her scoring punch at the backup forward spot strengthens the bench unit, and her defense could see her get minutes as a small ball center.

This Dukes group is poised to finish atop the SBC if her play continues progressing the way it has already. JMU advanced to 14-5 overall and 6-1 in SBC play with the victory, and the Dukes host first-place Marshall on Wednesday.

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