Each basketball season provides an opportunity for new players to step into the spotlight. From juniors and seniors seeing significant playing time for the first time to underclassmen making an impact, these girls basketball players are having breakout seasons.
Impact: Birdsell was a role player for the Lions last season but has had a tremendous impact this season. The 5-foot-8 forward provides some size in the paint, but the captain can also stretch the floor with a solid mid-range game.
“She had a pretty good season last year, but she is the glue to the team,” Lisle coach Nick Balaban said. “She’s our leading scorer and she’s got great toughness defensively and rebounding. Without her, we are not nearly the team we are.”
Impact: Size is a big key to team success in basketball, and the 6-foot-2 Johnson provides height in the paint for the Raiders. She is averaging a double-double, according to head coach Chris Smith.
“She gives us a post presence and is a complete difference-maker for us,” Smith said of the transfer from Waubonsie Valley. “It’s very important for us to have her because she is such a big presence for us.”
Impact: Mogensen saw varsity minutes last season, but she is playing a much larger role this season for first-year head coach Nick Balaban. She provides an inside presence for the Lions and has emerged as the No. 2 scorer on the team.
“She has a knack for scoring inside,” Balaban said. “She has good moves and good footwork around the basket, and she is a solid rebounder for us.”
School: Downers Grove South
Impact: It’s not often that a freshman can transition to high school varsity ball, but that is precisely what Rugienius has done this season. Having gained experience as an AAU player prior to joining the Mustangs, Rugienius has already carved out a role as a key reserve thanks to her ability to handle the ball and shoot from range.
“She has been with us all season as a role player, and I’ve seen her improve on her shot and be more confident on that,” South head coach Lyndsie Long said. “I keep telling her every day, ‘I need your shot, I need your shot,’ I see it out there every day.”
Impact: A point guard has perhaps the most important role on a basketball team, responsible for running the offense and getting teammates involved.
It’s a tough position to master, but Stanciel, a transfer from Naperville Central, has stepped up as a solid leader and distributor for the Raiders this season.
School: Downers Grove South
Impact: Wesolowski was already playing up a level when the season started as a freshman on the sophomore team, and due in part to injuries and her solid play, she recently moved up to join the varsity squad. Her age is no hindrance – head coach Lyndsie Long is already confident putting the ball in Wesolowski’s hands during crucial parts of the game.
“Addyson took the point guard role [against Willowbrook] and went with it, she wasn’t scared,” Long said. “That’s what I’m looking for — someone to handle the ball and be the voice of the team, and that’s what she’s been doing.”