A one-day break from basketball is all Huntley sophomore forward Ali Andrews could handle.
Andrews took the day off after the Red Raiders’ season ended in a sectional final against Boylan, but on Saturday, March 1, she was right back at it. Anyone looking for Andrews that day could find her at Healthbridge in Huntley with her sister Sam as they worked on their shots and basketball skills.
There is little time off for Ali Andrews after the high school season, but she is completely fine with that. The AAU season begins this week for Andrews, who competes with Midwest Elite. It’s that level of dedication that has contributed to Andrews becoming one of the top players in Illinois – and she’s only a sophomore.
Andrews, who was named to The Associated Press’ Class 4A all-state honorable mention team, averaged 18.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.5 blocks and 2.0 assists a game this season. She led the Red Raiders to a school-record 27 wins, an undefeated record in the Fox Valley Conference Valley Division for their program’s first conference title and a sixth regional title in eight years.
For a dominating performance this season, Ali Andrews is the Northwest Herald Girls Basketball Player of the Year, as chosen by the sports staff with input from local coaches. Ali Andrews is the first underclassman to earn the honor since Lake Zurich’s Alicia Ratay as a freshman in 1996.
“I think I always have something to prove to people,” Andrews said. “You just have to play hard every game and surprise them every game.
“I knew I needed to step up and be more of a leader vocally,” she added. “I’ve been working on my ball handling a lot so I could be a more versatile player.”
No matter how opposing coaches tried to shut her down, Andrews still gave teams nightmares. She scored in double figures in 28 of Huntley’s 31 games and scored at least 20 points in 15 games.
The work Andrews puts in during the offseason is nonstop and isn’t limited to the basketball court. During a typical week, Andrews trains at Davis Speed Center in Crystal Lake, works out at Healthbridge, works with a trainer in Buffalo Grove in group and individual basketball workouts and soon she will be adding AAU practices and tournaments to her schedule.
“I’ve worked really hard to get to this point,” Andrews said. “I think I’ve grown a lot. Last year I thought I was more mentally weak on the court because I’d get really frustrated. I overcame that just by working on my skills.”
The past two years have been made more special having her sister Sam, a senior who is headed to Truman State to play basketball, by her side during workouts and on the court representing the Red Raiders.
“It’s something that we’ll never do again, so I’m glad we really got to experience it,” Sam Andrews said of her sister. “She’s a huge part of the person I am today.”
Huntley coach Steve Raethz has been impressed by the strides Ali Andrews made this season and the way she battled, especially whenever she found herself double- or triple-teamed, which was often.
“She still has such a high ceiling for growth and development, and it’s great because she’s always looking to improve,” Raethz said. “She’s an intense competitor. What’s most impressive is even with all the individual accolades she’s garnered over the last two years, she’s always about the team and what she can do to help our team be successful.”
While on the sidelines during games, Raethz doesn’t hesitate to correct any miscues. It doesn’t bother her. Andrews described Raethz as another father-like figure and appreciates his guidance and willingness to demand the best of her.
“Raethz pushes me as hard as he can because he knows I can get so much better and be a more well-rounded player,” Andrews said. “I just take it as good criticism that you can learn from.”
Andrews is preparing for college recruitment to pick up in the coming months. Right now coaches can only contact her through a third party, such as Raethz, or she can reach out to them. She plans to visit colleges during the summer and has drawn interest from Indiana, Wisconsin and Northwestern. Andrews wants to play at a Division I school and has her sights set on the playing in the Big Ten or Big East. Raethz said it certainly is an attainable goal.
Andrews’ development both on and off the court has impressed her sister. Sam said Ali has matured a lot and stepped up as a leader for the Red Raiders. With her work ethic and competitiveness, Sam expects her sister to reach her full potential.
“She did the best she could every game,” Sam Andrews said. “She wanted to win. She’s really competitive. She did an outstanding job with all the defenses she had thrown at her. She overcame them and took them as a challenge.”