The window on the Gatorade State Girls Basketball Player of the Year race is closing, and the search for elite student-athletes is in full swing. The award recognizes not only athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field. Here are two top candidates who meet the basic award criteria as determined by our USA TODAY team that administers the program’s selection process.
Sophomore forward, Southeast (Lincoln, Neb.)
How she’s played herself into the State POY conversation: The 6-foot-3 sophomore forward scored 38 and 28 points in recent wins over Lincoln (Neb.) and Papillion-La Vista (Papillion, Neb.), raising her Class A-leading scoring average despite suffering from a severe sinus infection, according to the Lincoln Journal Star. A returning Journal Star First Team Super-State selection, Shepard led the Knights as a freshman to the 2012 Class A state championship game, when she totaled 19 points and 16 rebounds in a losing effort.
2012-13 Team record: 16-3 (Class A)
2012-13 Team standing: Ranked No. 4 in Nebraska’s Class A in the USA TODAY Super 25
2012-13 Points per game: 23.1
2012-13 Rebounds per game: 10.7
2012-13 Assists per game: 2.8
Collegiate destination: Nebraska (verbal)
Junior center, Shelby-Rising City (Shelby, Neb.)
How she’s played herself into the State POY conversation: The 6-foot-3 center, ranked No. 54 nationally in the Class of 2014 (as rated by Blue Star Basketball), has totaled 14 double-doubles and a monstrous triple-double of 24 points, 23 rebounds and 10 blocks in a 50-32 victory against Heartland (Henderson, Neb.). Needless to say, the returning Journal Star First Team Super-State selection leads the smaller Class C2 in both scoring and rebounding.
2012-13 Team record: 18-2 (Class AA)
2012-13 Team standing: Ranked No. 7 in Nebraska’s Class C2 in the USA TODAY Super 25
2011-12 Points per game: 23.5
2011-12 Rebounds per game: 14.1
2011-12 Blocks per game: 5.0
2011-12 Steals per game: 3.3
2011-12 Assists per game: 2.3
Collegiate destination: Undecided
Make no mistake, the Gatorade State Girls Basketball Player of the Year race isn’t over yet. Time remains for one standout student-athlete among thousands to rise to the top of our list. Here are more of many who’ve been in the conversation throughout the 2012-13 campaign.
Alyssa Frauendorfer: Senior forward, Humphrey (Neb.)
Alexa Kastanek: Senior guard, Southeast (Lincoln, Neb.)
Hannah Tvrdy: Senior point guard, Seward (Neb.)