Five players to watch
Sam Andrews, Huntley
Andrews has proven she can knock down a shot from anywhere on the court, and there’s no reason to believe she won’t have the same success this season. The 6-foot forward is just as efficient in the post as she is behind the 3-point line after making 52 3-pointers last season, second most by any area player. Defenses will quickly be reminded not to foul Andrews, who converted 81.8 percent of her free throw attempts.
“In the offseason I definitely worked very hard with improving my quickness, but I’m still working on my shooting every day,” Andrews said. “I’m definitely very confident shooting 3s because I know that I practiced a lot in the offseason.”
Sara Mickow, Crystal Lake South
One of the best rebounders, particularly on the offensive glass, Mickow has a knack for finding the basketball. Although an injury slowed her at the end of the season, she is coming off an impressive year when she averaged a double-double (12.5 points and 10.5 rebounds). Mickow’s ability to snare offensive rebounds for put-back buckets is a unique skill and difficult to defend.
“I don’t necessarily box out all the time; I just tend to be in the right place at the right time, jumping at the right spot,” Mickow said. “It all kind of works out.”
Evelyn Youel, Crystal Lake Central
Youel does it all for Central over the course of her four seasons on varsity. While she doesn’t intimidate with her size at 5-foot-8, Youel isn’t afraid to play physical. She still hauled in seven rebounds a game last year while averaging 7.4 points, 2.7 steals and 1.7 assists. With the Tigers vying for a Fox Valley Conference Fox Division title, Youel is an integral part of their system.
“I’m willing to play anything they need me to play,” Youel said. “I like to contribute any way I can whether it’s helping my teammates score – I just work hard. I’m not the tallest person out there, but I work with what I can do.”
Emma Benoit, Hampshire
Part of a young team learning a new system under a new head coach, Benoit has the ability to be a game-changing player for the Whip-Purs. After averaging 12 points and eight rebounds per game last year as a freshman, Benoit has the potential to be one of the area’s best post players. If Hampshire can get the ball inside to the 6-foot-2 Benoit the Whip-Purs can attack opposing defenses with an effective inside-outside game.
“I want to be more of a leader and help if anyone has questions,” Benoit said. “With AAU, it’s a lot more intense. I think I have that intensity and I think my ball-handling has gotten a lot better.”
Ali Andrews, Huntley
The 6-foot-2 Andrews averaged 15.7 points while grabbing 7.3 rebounds per game last season as a then-freshman and, with more experience, defenses are going to have a tough time slowing her down. Andrews said she worked to improve her outside shooting and ball-handling skills, which will only enhance her ability to dominate in the paint. Defensively, Andrews is an imposing figure near the rim. She posted an average of 2.4 blocks and 2.4 steals per game last year.
“I’m just trying to build off last year and try to be a more well-rounded player on and off the court,” Andrews said. “I’d like to become more of a leader on the team to some of the younger girls.”