POY: Uni High's Blue impresses on, off court

POY: Uni High's Blue impresses on, off court

URBANA — Jamie Blue helped build the best girls' basketball season in the history of the Urbana Uni High program this winter. Then, she turned her construction efforts elsewhere.

Blue's athletic resume is filled with impressive accomplishments and accolades.

She is the second-leading scorer and rebounder in the history of the Urbana Uni High girls' basketball program. She holds career marks for assists and steals. This season, she led coach Allie Lindemann's Illineks to 25 wins — the first time the school had more than 19 — and their first Class 1A regional championship in more than a quarter century.

Her choice as Area Player of the Year — though senior Josey Fruhling from St. Joseph-Ogden and junior Katelynn Martinez from Centennial were top contenders — recognizes how she elevated her play to carry Uni High to its record-breaking season, a fact confirmed when The Associated Press picked her for its five-player Class 1A all-state second team.

What is missing from the statistical resume is how the person 18-year-old Jamie Blue has become is even far superior to the athlete who is a three-sport standout.

Taking a different shot

Blue qualified for the state finals in the three-point shooting contest but did not participate. Instead, she was one of 19 Uni High students who joined five adult chaperones volunteering for a weeklong Habitat for Humanity project in Clarksdale, Miss., the same community in the Mississippi Delta former President Bill Clinton toured in 1999 during his five-stop Poverty Tour.

It was not really a tough decision as to which direction for Blue to go.

"It would have been great to shoot," she said, "but Habitat is much bigger than me. It's me helping someone else. I couldn't miss that opportunity."

This was the 16th consecutive year that Uni history teacher Bill Sutton has transported a group of teenagers to the area. There are always more applicants than there are seats in the two 12-passenger vans.

"The ones we picked are kids who expressed a genuine interest in reaching out to underrepresented communities," Sutton said, "and who really understood what we were trying to do, to partner with these communities and learn as much from them as we are trying to give to them."

Blue, like her colleagues, took a hammer, tape measure, utility knife and tool belt for her journey to the predominantly African-American community of about 18,000 residents.

Paying attention

Besides helping lay tile, paint walls, stain doors, hang interior doors and put up trim, Blue found time in her schedule to visit a local elementary school's second-grade classroom. Other Uni students on the trip also volunteered at schools or donated time at a local soup kitchen.

What Blue witnessed was not what she was prepared to see.

"They have SMART Boards and good technology," Blue said, "but there are not enough teachers to give kids the attention they need. The kids are craving attention. They want people to love them and pay attention to them. Literally all of the kids were hugging me.

"I wish there was something more I could do."

The work on the house for Shirley Shields, which had the concrete foundation laid and the drywalling finished when the Uni group arrived, Sutton said, was "the stuff that makes a place look good really quickly."

Shields' reaction, he said, was "so grateful for all the work the kids had done. She wept."

High-level learning

Blue has embraced the atmosphere at Uni and has absorbed as much knowledge as possible. She has maintained a perfect 4.0 grade-point average through seven semesters. Her schedule features seven classes daily, some Advanced Placement, as well as courses at Parkland College.

Yet, in her unassuming nature, that is not so much a credit as to what she has learned but rather what she has been taught.

"My motto is to do everything to the best of my abilities," Blue said. "Teachers and coaches work hard for me, and they deserve the same respect from me. My teachers are so intelligent and teach me so much. I've grown so much as a student and, as a person, discovered who I am."

The work ethic that others observed during Blue's athletic career was matched by the effort she put into her academics, Sutton said.

"She was always asking questions, clarifying, saying do you mean this?" Sutton said. "It was beyond determination to do well. It was like, 'I want to know what you're talking about here, so explain it further.' "

Philosophical ponderings

Having taught Blue, Sutton said he was not surprised by a conversation that took place with her during the commute home from Mississippi.

"She asked, 'Do you mind if I ask you a serious question?' " Sutton related. "It was like her, to ask beforehand, 'Do you mind?' "

The question was about the dynamics of faith and how it's different in the community they were leaving than the community where she has lived since moving from Minnesota as a fifth-grader.

"The way they embrace us (in Mississippi)," Sutton said, "we see a very different reflection in faith."

An educational view

Since Uni High started making the annual February trips south in 1997, cross-country and track coach Doug Mynatt has been a regular volunteer.

The response and reaction of the Uni students is always similar, he said, especially for those such as Blue who are making their first trip to the area.

"To go into the schools and see how different that setting is as far as the teaching methods and the discipline is a pretty eye-opening experience," Mynatt said. "They see things they've never seen and may have never perceived existed. A lot of them fall in love with the place and allow themselves to be a little more vulnerable."

Blue is somewhat accustomed to what to expect dealing with primary students. She is one of a group of Uni High students who volunteer 45 minutes every other day at a second-grade classroom in Urbana's King School.

"In my own way," she said, "I feel I am helping those around my community."

To see the gap between youngsters of similar ages in Clarksdale, however, is what affected Blue the most.

"Some kids were still adding on their fingers," she said, "but some could do multiplication."

Having a ball

Though Blue has been a three-year varsity mainstay in volleyball and soccer at Uni High, basketball is her passion.

"I play volleyball and soccer," Blue said, "but I work my off time on basketball. I've played since I was big enough to pick up a ball."

When she returned to the community where she was born and enrolled at St. Matthew, most spots on local basketball travel teams for that winter had been filled. Her father, Jeff, learned about the Illini Swish and got his daughter an impromptu tryout.

"Stu Meacham was coaching a fourth- and fifth-grade team, and I remember I played Chantal (Meacham) in the driveway," Jamie Blue said.

She made a favorable impression and was invited to join the team. By the time Blue was accepted at Uni three years later, athletic director Sally Walker had heard about the newbie's potential. Watching Blue play, Walker realized the reputation was well-deserved.

"It was very evident she had a great passion for the game and for competing," Walker said. "It was pretty apparent she'd be a leader for us and try to propel her teammates to have that same passion for the game."

Work ethic unparalleled

Basketball has gotten Blue most of her recognition, and it will keep her active next school year. She has offers to play at four colleges where she has been accepted: Case Western Reserve (Cleveland), Hope (Holland, Mich.), Kenyon (Gambier, Ohio) and Macalester (St. Paul, Minn.).

To be in that position, Blue said, is a tribute to the value of maximizing her abilities.

"Even if you're not as athletically gifted as others, basketball is a sport where you can outsmart people," Blue said.

Her selection as Player of the Year solidifies her role-model status for other aspiring athletes who may not be the quickest or able to jump the highest.

"She is not the most physically gifted, but the one characteristic that exemplifies her is a hard worker," Walker said. "She has an extremely high basketball IQ, she gets herself in the right positions and her work ethic is contagious.

"Regardless of the sport, she is all-out."

Sports, however, is not what will define her as the person Walker will remember in the future.

"She is involved in a lot of things (including student council president) and is not all about athletics," Walker said. "You couldn't find a much nicer kid. She's a special one. Thankfully, she was here."

In the future, Blue sees herself gravitating to one area.

"The type of job I'll be looking for is to do stuff to benefit people," she said. "I want to be a sports medicine doctor, like Dr. (Jerrad) Zimmerman (at Carle)."

All-Area First Team

NAME    SCHOOL    YR.    HT.    POS.    COACH
Kandie Bloch    Argenta-Oreana    Jr.    6-1    G    Ryan Sosamon
Jamie Blue    Urbana Uni High    Sr.    5-8    G    Allie Lindemann
Chelsea Cross    Centennial    Jr.    5-10    C    Susan Thomas
Josey Fruhling    St. Joseph-Ogden    Sr.    5-8    F    Brian Hatfield
Randa Harshbarger    St. Thomas More    So.    5-4    G    Jason Schreder
Sammi Kohlbecker    Tuscola    Sr.    5-5    G    Tim Kohlbecker
Molly Marcum    LeRoy    Sr.    5-10    F    Danielle Cooley
Katelynn Martinez    Centennial    Jr.    5-6    G    Susan Thomas
Chantal Meacham    Centennial    Jr.    5-9    G    Susan Thomas
Stacia Simmons    Centennial    Jr.    5-7    G    Susan Thomas

All-Area Second Team

NAME    SCHOOL    YR.    HT.    POS.    COACH
Devin Curry    Watseka    So.    5-6    G    Rebecca Swigert
Lori Haas    Bismarck-Henning    Sr.    5-11    G    Mike Stephens
Megan Jones    Ridgeview    Sr.    5-9    G    Andrew Jones
Brooke Markwalder    Armstrong-Potomac    Sr.    5-8    G    Nick Hipsher
Larissa Moses    Shiloh    Sr.    6-1    C    David Tingley
Ashen Portwood    Milford    Sr.    5-10    F    Rod Burgett
Lexi Wallen    St. Thomas More    Fr.    5-9    F    Jason Schreder
Ashley Walker    LeRoy    Sr.    5-9    G    Danielle Cooley
Hannah Wascher    Rantoul    Jr.    5-11    C    Jeff McKaufsky
Erin Weaver    Tuscola    Jr.    5-9    F    Tim Kohlbecker

Select company
A look at the All-Area Players of the Year through the years:
2012    Jamie Blue    Urbana Uni High
2011    Lauren Bogle    Shiloh
2010    Amy Martin    Oakwood
2009    Hannah Ohl    Bismarck-Henning
2008    Mandy Kirby    Urbana
2007    Ashley Runck    St. Joseph-Ogden
2006    Allie Lindemann    Central
2005    Kendra Donley    Mahomet-Seymour
2004    Candi McGee    Heritage
2003    Anne Parrett    Centennial
2002    LaToya Bond    Urbana
2001    Beth Burke    Salt Fork
2000    April Seggebruch    CPCI
1999    Kandy Lindsey    Bismarck-Henning
1998    Yolanda Smith    Rantoul
1997    Missy Barrett    Shiloh
1996    Missy Barrett    Shiloh
1995    Allyson Glazebrook    Sullivan
1994    Allyson Glazebrook    Sullivan
1993    Karen Bloch    Argenta-Oreana
1992    Traci Butler    Chrisman
1991    Becky Clayton    Sullivan
1990    Courtney Porter    Shiloh
1989    Courtney Porter    Shiloh
1988    Karrie Redeker    Crescent-Iroquois

Final 2011-12 area rankings

1. Centennial (1)    27-6    Top eight scorers were underclassmen
2. LeRoy (9)    27-5    Two of top six scorers were underclassmen
3. St. Thomas More (3)     27-6    Five of top seven scorers were underclassmen
4. Urbana Uni High (7)    25-5    Four of top seven scorers were underclassmen
5. Tuscola (8)    21-5    Three of top five scorers were underclassmen
6. Prairie Central (NR)    21-9    Two of top five scorers were underclassmen
7. St. Joseph-Ogden (6)    24-6    Three of top seven scorers were underclassmen
8. Mahomet-Seymour (NR)    17-12    Five of top seven scorers were underclassmen
9. Bismarck-Henning (5)    24-7    One of top six scorers was an underclassman
10. Champaign Central (2)    20-8    Four of top six scorers were underclassmen

All-Area special mention

NAME    SCHOOL    YR.    HT.    POS.
J’Lynn Ayers    Danville    Sr.    5-11    C
Makenzie Baker    Oakwood    Sr.    5-10    F
Kristen Belyea    Mahomet-Seymour    Jr.    5-5    G
Jade Brinkoetter    St. Thomas More    Jr.    5-5    G
Leslee Chambers    Judah Christian    So.    5-8    G
Sherelle Coller    Arthur-Lovington    So.    5-4    G
Taylor Edwards    Arcola    Fr.    5-7    G
Jakeenya Evans    Champaign Central    Sr.    5-7    G
Elizabeth Everingham    St. Joseph-Ogden    Sr.    5-5    G
Tori Gadbury    Monticello    Sr.    5-7    F
Arionna Gant    Cerro Gordo    Jr.    6-0    F
Kewanee Garrett    Champaign Central    Sr.    5-9    G
Laura Gross    Schlarman    Fr.    5-11    F
Brittany Hay    Georgetown-Ridge Farm    So.    5-6    G
Cheyenne Hedrington    Champaign Central    Sr.    5-10    F
Emma Hoyer    Urbana Uni High    Jr.    6-0    C
Laura Litchfield    Champaign Central    Jr.    5-8    G
Janelle Marion    Schlarman    So.    5-7    G
Bethany McGinness    Shiloh    So.    5-4    G
Hannah Millington    Argenta-Oreana    Sr.    5-10    F
Paige Neuhauser    Sullivan    Sr.    5-7    G
Jacquelyn O’Neal    Blue Ridge    Sr.    5-11    C
Regan Romshek    Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley    Sr.    5-7    F
Kylie Scherf    Milford    Sr.    5-2    G
Maggie Schmidt    Mahomet-Seymour    So.    5-9    G
Samantha Siddens    Bismarck-Henning    Sr.    5-10    G
Shelby Smith    Shiloh    Jr.    5-5    G
Ashley Tabb    Arthur-Lovington    Jr.    5-4    G
Cheyenne Weber    Paxton-Buckley-Loda    Sr.    5-3    G
Melinda Wilson    Blue Ridge    Sr.    5-7    G

All-Area honorable mention

ARCOLA — Cara Edwards, Jr., 5-8, F; Rachel Fishel,  Jr., 5-4, G
ARGENTA-OREANA — Taylor Fleming, Jr., 5-7, G; Katelynn Mullins, So., 5-7, G
ARMSTRONG-POTOMAC — Shayla Boen, Sr., 5-4, G; Kirsten Newnum, Jr., 5-1, G; Erika Sieberns, Jr., 6-0, C; Morgan Zindars, So., 5-4, G
ARTHUR-LOVINGTON — Emily Seegmiller, Fr., 5-7, G
ARTHUR OKAW CHRISTIAN — Meghan Lowry, Sr., 5-11, F
BISMARCK-HENNING — Bailey Bryant, Sr., 6-0, C; Kari Free, Sr., 5-6, G;  Emily Weinard, Sr., 5-9, F
BLUE RIDGE — Jamison Brandt, So., 5-9, F; Korrie Gilbert, Sr., 5-3, G
BUCKLEY CHRIST LUTHERAN — Andrea DeBella, So., 4-10, G; Olivia Janssen, Jr., 5-8, F
CERRO GORDO — Kristie Krigbaum, So., 5-6, G; Stephanie Shook, Fr., 5-7, G
CENTENNIAL — Zsayla Brummett, So., 5-9, G; Lauren Cloyd, Jr., 6-1, C; Nicole Schweighart, Sr., 5-7, G
CHAMPAIGN CENTRAL — Johynn-a Evans, Jr., 5-10, C; Olivia Sheehan, Sr., 5-3, G; Danyae Schoffner, Jr., 5-8, F
CHRISMAN — Sarah Ellis, So., 5-4, G; Paige Thevenin, Sr., 6-2, C
CLINTON — Madi Bevins, Sr., 5-6, G; Morgan Hickman, Jr., 5-7, F; Haley Toohill, So., 5-4, G
CPCI — Alexis Knake, Fr., 5-7, G
DANVILLE — Alexus Jimson-Miller, Jr., 5-6, G; Breanna Keys, Jr., 5-6, G
DANVILLE FIRST BAPTIST — Jessica Greer, Sr., 5-8, G
DeLAND-WELDON — Mikayla Jones, Jr., 5-10, C
FISHER — Jacy Cochran, Sr., 5-8, F; Caitlin Cole, So., 6-2, C
GEORGETOWN-RIDGE FARM — Callan Hall, Jr., 5-8, F; Alyssa Sawyer, Sr., 5-6, G
GIBSON CITY-MELVIN-SIBLEY — Angel Gaesser, Sr., 5-7, G; Jaymi Nettleton, Sr., 5-7, G
HERITAGE — Bailey Griffin, Sr., 5-7, F; Dallas McCormick, Jr., 5-7, G
HOOPESTON AREA — Shelby Holzinger, So., 5-10, F; Brooke Kinney, Sr., 5-7, G
IROQUOIS WEST — Jen Cox, Sr., 5-8, F/C; Morgan Small, So., 5-5, G; Haley Pence, Sr., 5-11, G/F
JUDAH CHRISTIAN — Kristina Lee, So., 5-10, C
LeROY — Stephanie Howell, Sr., 5-8, F; Lauren Russell, Jr., 5-7, G; Shannon Steffen, Jr., 5-5, G
MAHOMET-SEYMOUR — Allison Fitz, So., 5-6, G; Amanda Wallace, Sr., 5-5, G
MILFORD — Kinsey Knauth, Jr., 5-5, G; Samantha Wilken, Jr., 5-7, F
MONTICELLO — Sarah Foran, Sr., 5-8, F; Elise Pontious, Jr., 5-8, F
OAKWOOD — Angela Elliott, Sr., 5-3, G; Makayla Stark, Sr., 5-6, G
PAXTON-BUCKLEY-LODA — Erin Lemley, Jr., 5-9, F
PRAIRIE CENTRAL — Laura Crane, So., 5-10, F; Lindsey Krippel, Sr., 5-6, G; Sarah Oprondek, Sr., 5-10, F; Courtney Somers, Sr., 5-6, G; Gabby Weber, Jr., 5-9, G
RANTOUL — Jasmine Riggs, Fr., 5-4, G
RIDGEVIEW — Jenna Ayers, Jr., 5-4, G; Hallie Johnson, Sr., 5-6, G
SALT FORK — Kalyn Learnard, Salt Fork, Fr., 5-5, G; Hunter Marsh, Sr., 5-8, F; Emilie McFadden, So., 5-8, F; Taylor Vice, Jr., 5-5, G
SCHLARMAN — Ella Black, Jr., 5-7, G; Tanna Petersak, Sr., 5-9, G
SHILOH — Betsy Bogle, Jr., 5-3, G
SOUTH PIATT — Alex Miller, So., 5-11, C; Sabrina Tucker-Hinton, Jr., 5-10, F/C
ST. JOSEPH-OGDEN — Hannah Gaylord, Sr., 5-9, F; Hannah Graham, Sr., 5-8, F
ST. THOMAS MORE — Elayna Kramer, Jr., 5-4, G; Erica Wallen, Jr., 5-9, F
SULLIVAN — Azbije Sadikoska, Sr., 5-8, G
TRI-COUNTY — Amber Meyer, Jr., 5-7, G; Autumn Meyer, Jr., 5-5, G; Abby Smith, So., 5-10, C
TUSCOLA — Susan Ponder, Jr., 5-10, F
UNITY — Madie Herbert, Sr., 5-8, F; Bailey Walden, Sr., 5-8, G
URBANA — Karidia Shelby, Jr., 5-9, G
URBANA UNI HIGH — Jaki Vipond, So., 5-6, G
VILLA GROVE — Courtney Helm, Jr., 5-8, F; Amanda McCollom, Sr., 5-7, G
WATSEKA — Mariah Carroll, Jr., 5-3, G; Trisha Martin, Jr., 6-1, C
WESTVILLE — Ashley Hoffman, Jr., 5-6, G; Emilee James, Sr., 5-7, F; Carson Richardson, Jr., 6-0, C