Getting to know Chris Hemphill

Devin Stearns gets the attention when it comes to Serra football, but Chris Hemphill doesn't mind. In fact, it's conceivable the best friends could be playing together in college as well. And while Stearns is still wrestling with the various choices laid in front of him, Chris made his decision without much fuss. On his first official visit, to the University of Washington, Hemphill knew it was the place for him. And a subsequent visit to Arizona State confirmed his suspicions.

"I had a lot of fun on that trip," Chris told "Loren Wade was Devin's host and he went to Serra. His roommate, Randy Hill, was my host. They kept it real and told me what it was like down there but I feel strongly about U-Dub. "Washington was really the only school that's been recruiting me the whole time and had faith in my talent."

And the irony for Chris is that, like current Husky Nate Robinson, he'll be coming to school on a football scholarship when basketball just might be his real ticket to greatness. Hemphill was a first team all-CIF and all-state selection as a basketball player last year. Serra went 26-5 in Chris' junior season, but now he's the only returning player. In the games he's played so far, he's averaging a double-double (17 points and 11 rebounds) per game, with 5 blocks per contest to boot.

So will Chris become UW's latest two-sport sensation? He hopes so. "I came on my visit early, so I didn't get a chance to meet Coach (Lorenzo) Romar. I think they were in a meeting or something. But he has my number and he's supposed to be calling me this week."

As is stands, Hemphill will be arriving this fall primed to play with the pigskin. With his size (6-4.5, 206 pounds) and speed (4.6 40), the Husky coaches have the benefit of a pure athlete willing to do what it takes to get his name out there. "He could move to linebacker or even bulk up and be a defensive end," Serra football coach Scott Altenberg said. "He's a guy that's exciting to watch and you could do anything with him you want."

"They didn't talk too much about a specific place, just talked about the defensive scheme and how I could be a good asset to the team," Hemphill added. "Coach (Steve) Axman is the one that recruited me and initially they wanted me as an outside linebacker, but I since I want to play both sports in college I probably won't be able to get that big. I'm thinking I'll be more of a strong safety or free safety."

Chris played safety and receiver for Serra, racking up 48 tackles and 3 interceptions in 2002. "I just think it's my size in general that helps separate me out there," he said. "QB's think they can throw over the top on me but I have great closing speed. And I can fill the alleys when stopping the run. I make big hits and big interceptions."

It was that 'big time' mentality that certainly drew the interest of more than one Pac-10 school. "Arizona State, Oregon State and Oregon were on him for a while but he committed to Washington pretty quickly," Altenberg said. "I like the way they treated me on my trip," said Hemphill. "I also like how the coaches were and also the academic situation. With the tutors there I can tell they will be able to help me in the classes I need help with."

His Husky host was Isaiah Stanback. "We just hung out a lot," Chris said. "His personality is a lot like mine. He was real straight with me and talked about how he came to his decision. I think the highlight was just kickin' it with my host and the other players. They demonstrated a lot of team unity. You can tell they care about their teammates. The coaches also showed a lot of interest in my on my trip and told me that I could really be someone in the future."

And not even his dalliance with the Devils was enough for Chris to think twice about his commitment. At least not right now. "I'm still weighing my options but at this point it looks like just Washington and ASU," he said. "I'd say there's an 85-90 percent chance I sign with U-Dub."

Altenberg is a little more forceful. "It's a solid commitment," he said. "I've told these guys not to make a decision like that unless you really mean it."

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