2018 N-G All-State girls' basketball Player of the Year: Rock Island's Brea Beal

2018 N-G All-State girls' basketball Player of the Year: Rock Island's Brea Beal

ROCK ISLAND — Brea Beal watched this year's women's Final Four with rapt attention.

An overtime win for Mississippi State in the national semifinals. And one for Notre Dame with Arike Ogunbowale nailing a buzzer beater to topple UConn.

Then Ogunbowale did it again. Another buzzer beater in the national championship game to give the Fighting Irish their second title and first since 2001.

"Ogunbowale hitting those crazy shots, that's just the atmosphere I want to be in," Beal said. "It's cool to see girls go out there and create that crowd and atmosphere. I couldn't imagine being on that court, but hopefully I get to that point."

Odds are she will.

Beal is ranked as the No. 6 recruit in the 2019 class by BlueStar and at No. 10 by both ESPN and ProspectsNation.

The Rock Island junior received her first scholarship offer in the seventh grade.

Since then, she has received offers from the top teams in every major conference.

Beal only strengthened her status as an elite player in the country this past season.

The 6-foot-1 guard averaged 21.9 points, 10.2 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game for the Rocks, who finished 24-8 and advanced to the Sweet 16 in Class 4A.

That type of season earned Beal News-Gazette All-State Player of the Year honors for the second straight season. She's the fifth repeat winner, joining the likes of Mount Carmel's Tyra Buss (2013-14), Olney East Richland's Brittany Johnson (2006-07), Naperville Central's Candace Parker (2003-04) and Chicago Marshall's Kim Johnson (1992-93).

Beal's basketball future will come more into focus after her coming AAU season when she begins to narrow her recruitment. She's likely bound for one of those elite college programs — possibly pushing her to national prominence.

For the time being she already has a high profile in the Quad Cities. Kids flock to the Rock Island star, and she's more than willing to give back with trips to elementary schools and serving as a youth basketball coach.

"Just having kids come up to me and tell me how much they want to be like me or how much they're inspired by me I realized it's more than sports," Beal said. "It's not just you being able to score. You've got to be able to do things and inspire kids off the court because the next generation is something you could have in your hands and you could improve."

Kevin Beal realized just how big an effect his daughter was having a couple years ago. Surprise is the only fitting word for what he felt when girls and boys alike swarmed Brea at one of her younger brother's games.

"I'm thinking it's some of her friends' little siblings that she knows," Kevin said. "But these were kids from out of town that were running up to her and knew who she was. Parents came down and asked her to take pictures with their kids."

That sparked a conversation between father and daughter. Kevin Beal said he told Brea that, fair or unfair, everything she did would be watched, scrutinized — positive and negative.

That sparked the idea to start giving back. Visit elementary schools. Pop in to youth league practices and help coach.

"She walks in a classroom and the class erupts," Kevin Beal said. "I'm sitting back as a parent like, 'This is unreal.' A lot of the schools she goes to are the schools she attended. The kids can realize that their goal is not out of reach. It's right there and attainable.

"It's good to watch. It's good to know that she has the mindset of giving back and helping and understanding the big picture."

Brea Beal said the attention can be overwhelming sometimes. So can the idea that kids even just a few years younger view her as a role model. But the opportunity to affect kids' lives is one she couldn't dismiss.

"One simple word to them could change their whole point of view on things," she said. "It makes me feel like an amazing person to be able to be held to a high standard."

Brea Beal, the coach, is also passing on her love for basketball to younger kids.

"It's not all serious all the time," she said. "You've got to have fun within this game and make friends. That's where most of my friends came from.

"I want you to laugh. I want you to be comfortable. At the end of the day, fun is the main focus."

 

Previous News-Gazette All-State Girls’ Basketball Players of the Year

YEAR ATHLETE SCHOOL

2018 Brea Beal Rock Island
2017 Brea Beal Rock Island
2016 Kathleen Doyle Benet
2015 Haley Gorecki Palatine Fremd
2014 Tyra Buss Mount Carmel
2013 Tyra Buss Mount Carmel
2012 Jewell Loyd Niles West
2011 Morgan Tuck Bolingbrook
2010 Tricia Liston Oak Park 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 Whit. Young
1993 Kim Williams Chicago Marshall
1992 Kim Williams Chicago Marshall
1991 Becky Clayton Sullivan (tie)
       Megan Lucid (tie) Mother McAuley
1990 E.C. Hill Chicago Whitney Young
1989 Toni Foster Chicago Marshall
1988 Yolanda Griffith Chicago Carver
1987 Nancy Kennedy Maine West