James Madison guard Peyton McDaniel watches the game as she waits to be substituted in during the game against the George Mason Patriots in Harrisonburg, Va. on Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020.

JMU women’s basketball is known for its eye-catching players, and this year’s freshmen are no exception.

Over the past week, two freshmen have caught the eyes of JMU nation after defeating UVA and GMU — two in-state rivals.

Freshman guard Jamia Hazell caught attention in her first game, scoring 18 points for a .438 shooting percentage. Fans took notice of Hazell’s first performance, making remarks on her potential to grow into a new big-name player. She has a strong vision on the court, and her agility keeps defensive opponents on their toes.

“I’m feeling really good, Coach  [O’Regan] was telling me to stay focused on my game,” Hazell said. “I just want to be able to help my team and get the wins we want.”

Hazell scored at least 13 points every game this season and plays an average of 23 minutes each game. She’s consistent on the scoreboard with her 5-for-5 free throw attempts and holds a .429 percentage for 3-point attempts.

“She’s got the shooting ability of Tarik Hislop,” head coach Sean O’Regan said. “She can shoot as well, if not better than her, and has the demeanor for [Kamiah] Smalls.”

Opposite to Hazell, freshman guard Peyton McDaniel is a lasting presence on the court for the Dukes. Starting in all four games this season, McDaniel fosters both offensive and defensive skills that allow her to lead the team. During the game against George Mason, McDaniel became the third player in program history to score at least 30 points as a freshman.

McDaniel’s offensive power prevailed against the Patriots, but her defensive ability was on display as well. Averaging 30 minutes per game, McDaniel had two blocks and seven steals in her four games played.

“I think I just have to stay confident in my shooting,” McDaniel said. “If I’m able to do that, I’ll be able to keep doing what I can do.”

The two players created a bond together both on and off the court. The two credit their on-court chemistry to the help of O’Regan along with the time they’ve shared as roommates.

“It’s really great because it shows that all the recruits Coach [O’Regan] finds have that chip on their shoulder,” sophomore guard Kiki Jefferson said. “They know they’re here for a reason, and it’s to play the game together.”

Both players and the rest of the JMU roster will prepare for CAA conference play in January after their final nonconference game against West Virginia University on Sunday. The Dukes will compete for a fourth consecutive championship title. Hazell and McDaniel are the new leaders on the team, and it’s likely they’ll pave their way into the program record books.

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