Kroner: State girls' basketball POY is a real Jewell
SKOKIE — Under the influence of truth serum, all sports fans probably have the same desire.
We all want our athletic icons to be exemplary role models whose attitude, conduct, morals and values are what we hope our children and grandchildren emulate daily.
We want the athlete's good deeds away from the limelight of the sporting arena to surpass their good deeds from the competition. About the time we think our expectations are unreachable and unrealistic, along comes a real gem.
Anthony Konsewicz tried to prepare people who regarded Niles West's Jewell Loyd as simply one of the premier girls' basketball players in the state and country.
"She is," Konsewicz said without hesitation, "twice the person she is a basketball player."
The coach's comment is so intriguing that it requires investigation. Loyd's basketball credentials are virtually unmatched among the nation's female players.
The News-Gazette All-State Player of the Year averaged 26.9 points and 12.0 rebounds as a senior, surpassing the 3,000-point mark for her career. She is the seventh athlete in 36 years of IHSA-sanctioned competition for girls in basketball to achieve that milestone.
She is hardly a newcomer on the national scene. As a high school freshman, she was ranked 38th by Blue Star among the country's ninth-graders.
In 2010, she was rated the 29th-best sophomore. Her ascension continued last year as she reached the No. 17 spot nationally among juniors.
As Loyd's improvement mushroomed, her stock soared. As a senior, she is regarded by Blue Star as the third-best senior in the USA. Does Konsewicz expect gullible folks to believe this young person's deportment and conduct far exceeds her basketball skills?
Yes, he repeated.
He emphasized that his opinion in no way diminishes her talent.
"At this level," Konsewicz said, "she is Michael Jordan and Dennis Rodman put together into one player."
No wonder ESPN.com has rated Loyd the No. 1 female prep point guard in all of America.
True assist leader
For proof of the other side of the unassuming Loyd, Niles West's Ann Feldmann — an executive secretary in the social studies department — offers this view of the teenager from an incident that occurred less than two weeks before last Christmas.
"Hobbling down the stairs, to take tests to the Test Center, I was proceeding slowly and with difficulty," Feldmann said. "The orthopedic boot that I wear for an injury is so heavy and can be slippery.
"I was inching along, step-by-step, obviously leery about doing this when someone very gently took hold of my arm and said, 'Need help?' Jewell Loyd, an exceptional person in all areas, helped me all the way down the stairs. She took her time and positioned herself so that if I fell, it wouldn't be far.
"This certainly warmed my heart. She didn't make a big deal about it, but it was a big deal to me. Hope you can mention how lovely her act of kindness was."
Feldmann said she was trying to get accustomed to the boot, which she wore while recovering from broken bones and a torn tendon.
"The boot was something I had never worn, and it went up to my knee," she said. "It was heavy, cumbersome and hard to get used to. The sole had a sort of bump, and if one wasn't careful, one could actually fall backward, as I almost did a few times. I was really leery about the stairs. I thought I'd go flying down the entire flight.
"The stairwell was very crowded and people were passing me on all sides without even realizing that I was in a boot. All of a sudden, an angel seemed to have appeared and took control. Jewell didn't need to be asked for help. She just helped, and she seemed so humble and modest when I thanked her."
The assistance came at a time in Feldmann's life when she needed something good.
"Feeling quite alone with a new injury, after some family tragedies, and trying to cope with the limitations of wearing the boot — it was like hauling around a side of beef — I was just mind and body weary," Feldmann said. "Jewell has no idea of the impact that her act of kindness had on me. Trust me, those few moments with her were magical."
Glenbrook South coach Steve Weissenstein played Loyd's Niles West's teams 10 times during her four years at the high school. He said she is as good of a basketball player as she is a person.
"I scouted her more times than I can count and she is, in my mind, the greatest player ever to play in Illinois," Weissenstein said. "Despite the fact that every team knew she was getting the ball, she was able to score 3,000 points."
The coach is not convinced that scoring is her best asset.
"If someone on her team was open, the ball was in her teammate's hands instantaneously," Weissenstein said. "Unfortunately for Jewell, her teammates couldn't handle some of her pinpoint passes. Despite being an incredible scorer, she was unselfish to a fault."
Don't get the coach started about what he saw from Loyd on the defensive end.
"We had to alter our inside game because she did a phenomenal job of coming off her person and blocking shots," he said. "It seemed like she got every rebound when we played them."
Weissenstein, for one, wouldn't need much prompting to send Loyd a thank-you note for graduating and moving on to the next level.
"When the game was on the line, she was nearly impossible to stop, pulling up from anywhere and draining threes, splitting defenders and making clutch free throws," he said. "She was like Roy Hobbs in 'The Natural.' She could do anything she wanted.
"She truly loves the game as every time I was scouting teams in our conference, she was there herself scouting."
An impact student
Hope Kracht saw Loyd play basketball. Like others, she was impressed.
As her guidance counselor at Niles West, Kracht was able to see a revealing look at the person inside the athlete.
That's where she was truly impressed.
"She is a mature thinker," Kracht said, "and the same tenacity you see on the basketball court, you also see in the classroom. She is very committed to doing her best at all times.
"What is charming about her, for being such an amazing young woman in basketball, she is very humble and so sincere in helping others."
Loyd has participated in a names assembly at Niles West, which Kracht said, "helps freshmen look at their life. The idea is we are this diverse school and kids should respect each other and honor whatever their ethnic basis is.
"Jewell is one of the students to stand up and talk how important that is. She stands in front of groups of people and has that genuineness about her. She values the school for accepting people for who they are and encouraging others to do so. That is a beautiful thing and has really impacted a lot of kids in the freshman class."
Kracht believes there is universal admiration for Loyd from any of the adults associated with Niles West.
"She is equally respected and admired by staff, whether they are educators or security-guard folks," Kracht said. "That comes from the exemplary ethics that is the core of who she is.
"Her parents, her brother, her family have nurtured it. It is truly beautiful. She lives those values of respect and integrity in all of her interactions."
Fun in the games
There's not much left for Konsewicz to say. If he were so inclined, he could say "told you so."
Instead, he points out the obvious impact Loyd has had in basketball.
"Jewell is a game-changer on the offensive and the defensive end," he said. "She averaged a double-double each of her last three years. Before Jewell came to Niles West, we were seven- to eight-game winners a year. Over the last four years, we've won 88 games. She makes players around her better."
Loyd, who has lived her whole life in Lincolnwood, literally grew up with basketball.
"One memory I have is of being on my dad's hip when he was coaching," said Loyd, who was elevated to the seventh-grade team while a fifth-grader.
She hopes to be remembered not for the 3,077 career points but for the 88 games Niles West won during her watch.
"It has never been about putting points on the board," Loyd said. "It has always been about winning and what I can do to help my team win. My personal goals were just to have fun and win.
Yes, indeed, that is it.
NAME SCHOOL HT. YR. POS. COMMENT
Meredith Boardman Fenwick 6-1 S. F Yale recruit top scorer and rebounder on a 22-11 team; also a 70 percent free throw shooter and a 50 percent field goal shooter
Sophie Brunner Freeport Aquin 6-0 Jr. G Uncommitted, top scorer and rebounder on 32-4 team that won Class 1A state championship; hit 68 percent of her shots from the field
Jordan Frericks Quincy Notre Dame 6-2 Jr. G Uncommitted, top rebounder, No. 2 scorer, No. 2 in assists for 33-1 team that won Class 2A state championship
Linnae Harper Chicago Young 5-8 Jr. G Uncommitted, is ranked eighth nationally among juniors by Blue Star, top scorer on 34-0 Class 4A state championship team
Shannise Heady Hillcrest 5-11 Sr. F Seton Hall recruit is ranked 201st nationally among seniors by Blue Star; top scorer on 28-4 team; 1,607 career points for teams that were 116-16
Emmonnie Henderson Edwardsville 6-2 Jr. F Repeat first-teamer ranked 50th nationally among juniors by Blue Star, top scorer and rebounder on 34-2 team that placed second in Class 4A
Micah Jones C-H/Beecher City 6-1 Jr. C Uncommitted, top scorer, assist leader and rebound leader on 29-4 team that placed second in Class 1A; shot 52 percent from the field.
Sarah Livingston Morton 6-2 Jr. F Uncommitted, top scorer and rebounder on 31-3 team that lost in the Class 3A Elite Eight; needs 319 rebounds to break school career record (1,049)
Jewell Loyd Niles West 5-10 Sr. G Repeat first-teamer and Notre Dame recruit is ranked third nationally by Blue Star, seventh in state history for points (3,077), 12th for rebounds (1,478)
Zahna Medley Springfield 5-7 Sr. G Repeat first-teamer and TCU recruit is ranked 210th nationally among seniors by Blue Star; top scorer, three-point shooter and assist leader for 29-6 team
Megan Podkowa River Forest Trinity 6-1 Sr. F DePaul recruit is ranked 134th nationally among seniors by Blue Star, top scorer and rebounder on 30-2 team; a 78 percent free throw shooter
Becca Smith South Elgin 5-7 Sr. G Loyola recruit, top scorer on a 19-11 team; 72 percent free throw shooter; averaged 5.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game
Janee Thompson Chicago Young 5-6 Sr. G Kentucky recruit is ranked 38th nationally among seniors by Blue Star, top three-point marksman on 34-0 Class 4A state championship team
Morgan Tuck Bolingbrook 6-2 Sr. F Repeat first-teamer and UConn recruit is ranked ninth nationally among seniors by Blue Star; led her 26-2 team to super-sectionals
Haley Videckis Bartlett 6-0 Sr. F Indiana recruit, top scorer and rebounder on 32-2 team that placed third in Class 4A; third on school’s career scoring list (1,350)
NAME SCHOOL HT. YR. POS. COMMENT
Jamie Blue Urbana Uni High 5-9 Sr. G Uncommitted, top scorer (19.9 average) for a 25-5 team that set a school record for wins; school’s No. 2 career scorer (1,743)
Tyra Buss Mount Carmel 5-6 So. G Uncommitted, followed up on 1,025 points as a freshman by scoring 1,121 (third best in state history) as a sophomore for a 26-6 team
Justice Collins Springfield SE 5-7 Jr. G Uncommitted, top scorer (22.1 average) on a 21-7 team; had 131 rebounds, 108 assists and 28 three-pointers
Bria Gaines Chicago Bloom 6-3 Jr. C Uncommitted, averaged 27.2 points, 16.5 rebounds and 4.5 blocks for a 16-9 team. Had a double-double in each of the team’s games
Kassidy Gengenbacher Quincy Notre Dame 5-10 Jr. G Uncommitted, top scorer (16.4 average) on 33-1 team which won Class 2A state championship; a 70 percent shooter from the free throw line
Joymesia Howard East St. Louis 6-1 Sr. F Uncommitted, top scorer (15.5 average) and rebounder (8.7) on a 19-9 team; also a state medalist in track in high jump and 100 hurdles
Jocie Klocke Hardin-Calhoun 5-11 Sr. F Uncommitted, top scorer (21.1 average) and career rebound leader (1,010) for 29-5 team that reached the Class 1A Elite Eight for the first time
Alexis Lloyd Chicago Young 5-10 Sr. G Virginia Tech recruit is ranked 106th nationally among seniors by Blue Star, a double-figure scorer for 34-0 Class 4A state championship team
Maggie Lyon New Trier 6-1 Sr. G Northwestern recruit is ranked 145th nationally among seniors by Blue Star, top scorer (20.1) and rebounder (8.3) for a 20-10 team
Taylor McClintock Illini Bluffs 5-10 Jr. G Uncommitted, top scorer (24.6) and rebounder (5.5) for 30-6 team which placed third in Class 1A; second on team in assists (2.8)
Katie Meador Salem 5-11 Sr. F Florida Gulf Coast recruit, top scorer (23.3) and rebounder (10.2) on a 29-5 team that lost in the Class 3A Elite Eight
JeTaun Rouse Chicago Marist 5-9 Jr. G Uncommitted, top scorer (13.0) on a 32-2 team that lost in the Class 4A Elite Eight; second in school history at school with 1,406 rebounds
Brooke Schulte Breese Mater Dei 5-10 Sr. G DePaul recruit, top scorer (19.0) on a 26-3 team; scored school-record 1,907 points for teams 103-14 in her prep career
Celina VanHyfte Annawan 6-0 So. F Uncommitted, top scorer (22.6 average) who had a school-record 724 points for a 30-2 team; averaged team-high 12.4 rebounds per game
Taylor Voss Breese Central 6-0 Sr. F McKendree (volleyball) recruit, top scorer (13.3 average) for a 30-6 team that placed second in Class 2A; team’s No. 2 rebounder (5.8)
Special Mention 50
NAME SCHOOL HT. YR. POS.
Samirah Ali Hillcrest 5-0 Sr. G
Carly Beebe South Fulton/Astoria/VIT 5-9 Sr. G
Meri Bennett-Swanson Vernon Hills 6-2 Jr. C
Kandie Bloch Argenta-Oreana 6-1 Jr. G
Leah Bolton Chicago Marist 5-9 Jr. G
Shavonne Brewer Rock Island 5-6 Jr. G
Tianna Brown Lombard Montini 6-0 Sr. C
Bryn Buckwalter Freeport 5-11 Jr. F
Aleesha Cleaver Dakota 5-7 Sr. G
Maggie Cunningham Peoria Richwoods 5-9 Sr. G
Kalie DiNunno Guerin 5-7 Sr. G
Kelsey Dirks Robinson 6-3 Sr. C
Michelle Dobbs Rochelle 5-11 Jr. G/F
Josey Fruhling St. Joseph-Ogden 5-8 Sr. F
Jessica Gerig Stillman Valley 5-10 Sr. G
Kalla Gold Eureka 5-6 Sr. G
Devan Griffin Geneseo 6-0 Sr. C
Stekara Hall Oak Park-River Forest 5-9 Sr. G
Shay Harre Nashville 5-9 Jr. F
Jerica Hawkins Decatur Lutheran 5-10 Sr.
Olivia Jakubicek Cary-Grove 5-10 Jr. F
Skyler Jessop Grayslake Central 5-9 Sr. G
Taylor Johnson Lincoln-Way East 5-6 Sr. G
Jackie Kemph Rolling Meadows 5-6 So. G
Taylor Klingelhoefer O’Fallon 5-7 Sr. G
Rachel Konieczki Rockford Lutheran 5-3 Jr. G
Jessica Lieber Galesburg 5-3 Jr. G
Molly Marcum LeRoy 5-10 Sr. G
Katelynn Martinez Centennial 5-6 Jr. G
Ashley McConnell Fremd 5-9 Jr. G
Nia Moore Bolingbrook 6-2 Sr. F
Taylor Nazon Trinity 5-7 Jr. G
Kalea Parks Proviso East 6-1 Sr. F
Kaitlin Phillips Hinckley Big-Rock 5-6 Sr. G
Christen Prasse Lisle Benet 5-10 Jr. G
Paige Rakers Carlyle 5-10 Jr. C
Keiera Ray Bolingbrook 5-9 Sr. G
Charnelle Reed Homewood-Flossmoor 5-11 Sr. F
Kelcie Rombach Ottawa 5-11 Sr. G
Khadaizha Sanders Bishop McNamara 5-5 Fr. G
Ashley Santos Geneva 6-0 Sr. F
Stacia Simmons Centennial 5-6 Jr. G
Nicole Smith Rockton Hononegah 6-4 Sr. C
Sydnee Sturdivant Decatur Eisenhower 5-8 Sr. G
Mariah Sunkett Belleville East 6-1 Sr. F
Rachel Torres DeKalb 5-7 Jr. G
Jessie Wendt Teutopolis 6-0 Sr. F
Taylor White DeKalb 5-8 Sr. G
Briya Wilborn Westchester St. Joseph 5-6 Sr. G
Stephenee Yancy Kankakee 6-2 Sr. C
Honorable Mention 100
NAME SCHOOL HT. YR. POS.
Cortney Allenbaugh Morton 5-10 Sr. F
Danica Balbach Warren 5-6 Sr. G
Diamond Beatty Tinley Park 5-5 Jr. G
Jennifer Berg Midwest Central 5-11 So. F
LaTondra Brooks Oak Lawn 5-6 So. G
Alexis Brown Belleville East 5-7 Sr. G
Lauren Brummel Somonauk 6-1 Sr. C
Joanna Bukowinski Elmwood Park 5-5 Jr. G
Martha Burse Kankakee 5-7 So. G
Alexa Capps Woodlawn 5-5 Jr. G
Jemia Carpenter Peoria Central 5-10 Sr. F
Jackie Cardona Aurora Central 5-10 Sr. G
Claire Chester St. Scholastica 5-7 Jr. G
Cassidy Clark Orion 6-0 Jr. C
Brittany Collins Maine West 6-1 So. F
Kristin Coniff Bartlett 6-0 Sr. F
Khadija Cooley Joliet West 5-4 Sr. G
Chelsea Cross Centennial 5-10 Jr. F
Octavia Crump Zion-Benton 5-11 Sr. G
Halle Devoe Springfield Southeast 5-9 Jr. G
Nikki Dizon Chicago Latin 5-8 Sr. G
Sydney Doby Harvest Christian 6-2 So. C
Megan Doody Neuqua Valley 5-7 Sr. G
Nikia Edom Lombard Montini 5-6 Jr. G
Rebekah Ehresman El Paso/Gridley 5-6 So. G
Olivia Elger Peoria Notre Dame 5-7 Fr. G
Samantha Ellsworth Havana 5-8 Sr. G
Sophie Fairman Staunton 6-2 Jr. C
MiKayla Fallon East Moline United 5-9 Sr. G
Cassidy Glenn Providence Catholic 6-0 Sr. G
Jacqui Grant Maine South 6-3 Jr. F
Lauren Gronewold Illini West 5-11 Sr. F
Kaydie Grooms Marshall 5-11 So. F
Sarah Hansen Kewanee Wethersfield 5-4 Jr. G
Leslie Harden Madison 5-8 Jr. G
Randa Harshbarger St. Thomas More 5-4 So. G
Mariyah Henley Niles North 6-0 Sr. F
Alicyn Hester Yorkville 5-9 Sr. F
Alissa Hirsh Niles North 5-5 Sr. G
Lexi Hobbs Dunlap 5-9 Sr. G
Kamisha Holsapple Cumberland 5-6 Jr. G
Abby Horn Herrin 6-1 Jr. F
Erica Hotze Neoga 6-1 Sr. F
Aimee Iverson Sherrard 5-4 Sr. G
Jordan Jackson Annawan 6-1 Sr. F
Erica Jordan Waubonsie Valley 5-8 Sr. F
Tiana Karopulos Andrew 5-9 Jr. G
Jaelyn Keene Jacksonville 6-2 So. C
Alex Klackova North Clay 5-11 Sr. G
Donna Koerber Westchester St. Joseph 5-11 Sr. F
Sammi Kohlbecker Tuscola 5-5 Sr. G
Tori Kuhn Quincy Notre Dame 6-0 Sr. C
Deanna Kuzmanic Wheeling 5-8 Fr. G
Kellie Kuzmanic Wheeling 5-10 Sr. F
Lake Kwaza Sycamore 5-5 Sr. G
Sam Lambrigtsen Oregon 5-6 So. G
Brianna LeBeau Oak Lawn Richards 5-10 Sr. F
Paige Lincicum Cary-Grove 5-10 Sr. G
Paige Luehmann Granite City 5-1 Sr. G
Michelle Maher Maine South 5-9 Sr. G
Vanessa Markert Brown County 6-2 Fr. F
Colleen McDonagh Glenbrook South 5-10 Sr. G
Molly McGraw Bloomington CC 5-8 So. F
Chantal Meacham Centennial 5-9 Jr. G
Marta Medina Aurora East 5-9 Sr. F
Emily Michael Highland 6-0 Sr. F
Ashton Millender Marian Catholic 5-10 So. G
Alaina Morrell Christian Life 5-9 Sr. G
Hannah Nimrick Riverdale 5-10 Jr. F
Kendyl Nunn Morgan Park 5-9 Sr. G
Shea O’Brien Pittsfield/Pleasant Hill 5-7 Jr. G
Keisha O’Neal Tilden 5-5 Sr. G
Jade Owens Fenwick 5-7 So. G
Tatyana Peck Normal U-High 5-8 Sr. G
Kaitlyn Pleau River Ridge/Scales Mound 6-1 Sr. F
Taylor Quain Lockport 5-9 Sr. F
Desiree Rhodes Aurora East 6-1 Jr. F
Tia Robertson Normal West 5-9 So. C
Kylie Romeo Moline 5-8 Sr. G
Gracie Sanchez Glenbrook North 5-10 Sr. C
Ali Sanders Dundee-Crown 5-7 Sr. G
Allie Schoonover Pana 5-7 Jr. G
Anna Schueler Loyola 5-7 Sr. F
Alyssa Siwek Mother McAuley 5-9 Jr. G
Sydney Smith Vernon Hills 5-10 So. G
Alex Stanford Rich Central 5-7 Jr. G
Faith Suggs Plainfield East 6-0 Fr. G
Brionna Taylor Southeast 6-0 Jr. F
Erin Thomas Richmond-Burton 5-6 Sr. G
Maddie Timmerman Breese Central 5-10 So. F
Tyshee Towner Aurora East 5-8 Jr. G
Meghan Waldron Wheaton Warrenville South 6-0 So. G
Allison Webb Goreville 6-0 Jr. C/F
Lauren White Edwardsville 5-8 Jr. G
Jessi Wiedemann Fremd 6-1 Sr. G
Gabby Williams Plainfield East 5-11 Jr. C
Savannah Wittenbrink Columbia 5-9 Jr. F
Denisha Womack Peoria Central 6-1 Sr. G
Chanta Wright Peoria Manual 5-11 Sr. F
Destinee Young Hoffman Estates 6-2 Jr. C
Getting to know ... Jewell Loyd
Role model: Candace Parker. I don’t think there was a school project I didn’t do on her.
Favorite current college player: Skylar Diggins, Notre Dame
Favorite entertainer: My mom
Favorite class: History
Favorite movie: “Goodfellas”
Favorite store: Dick’s Sporting Goods
Favorite restaurant: L. Woods, Lincolnwood
Favorite car: Bentley
Pet peeve: People chewing with their mouth open
Best thing about Niles West: Diversity
College plans: Attending Notre Dame to play basketball and major in communications and broadcasting
News-Gazette Players of the Year
Year Name School
2012 Jewell Loyd Niles West
2011 Morgan Tuck Bolingbrook
2010 Tricia Liston Fenwick
2009 Adrienne GodBold Chicago Marshall
2008 Sarah Boothe Gurnee Warren
2007 Brittany Johnson Olney East Richland
2006 Brittany Johnson Olney East Richland
2005 Lindsay Schrader Bartlett
2004 Candace Parker Naperville Central
2003 Candace Parker Naperville Central
2002 Johanna Solverson Lake Zurich
2001 Cappie Pondexter Chicago Marshall
2000 Aminata Yanni Harlem
1999 Molly McDowell Nokomis
1998 Allison Curtin Taylorville
1997 Amanda Levens Belvidere
1996 Tauja Catchings Stevenson
1995 Tamika Catchings Stevenson
1994 Dominique Canty Chicago Young
1993 Kim Williams Chicago Marshall
1992 Kim Williams Chicago Marshall
1991 Becky Clayton Sullivan
1991 (tie) Megan Lucid Mother McAuley
1990 E.C. Hill Chicago Young
1989 Toni Foster Chicago Marshall
1988 Yolanda Griffith Chicago Carver
1987 Nancy Kenelly Maine West
1986 Michele Savage IHM