Elizabethtown High (Elizabethtown, Ky.) senior forward Erin Boley was today named the 2015-16 Gatorade National Basketball Player of the Year. The 6-foot-2 senior wing led the Panthers to a 30-5 record and the state postseason tournament quarterfinals. Boley averaged 24.2 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.7 steals and 2.7 assists per game. A 2016 McDonald’s All-American, Boley is rated the nation’s No. 5 recruit in the Class of 2016 by espnW. She concluded her prep basketball career with 3,325 points, good for seventh on the state’s all-time list. She also corralled 1,431 career rebounds.
PHOTOS: Boley Gatorade POY presentation
We sat down with Boley, 18, to better understand how she outshined more than 430,000 high school girls basketball players nationwide to win the award.
Q: It’s been well reported you’re a healthy eater and embrace the link between diet and high performance. Will you make an exception on a night like tonight and have some dessert?
A: On a night like tonight? Yes, I think I will.
Q: Last month, you watched your future alma mater Notre Dame beat Louisville in front of 14,000 fans in South Bend. What was that like?
A: That was a great game and we had so much fun. We sat with the players’ parents. It was an amazing experience.
Q: You had offers from every program that’s an NCAA Final Four threat every year. Why Notre Dame, and do you have any idea yet what you’re going to study there—we’re hearing the business school or international marketing?
A: Notre Dame absolutely had all-around around appeal. The school, the academics, the coaches, the team were all exemplary. I was really fortunate to have parents who took me on a lot of visits. It was priceless to be able to compare schools through those experiences. When it came down to it, I visited Notre Dame several times and I could see myself as a student there. I’ve expressed interest in the business school (publically), but a big part of that is because I like to travel. I also really like art and I’m considering a way I might combine the two.
Q: Some very experienced coaches have said your work ethic and desire to improve is unique. Rare, even. Where does that come from?
A: From a very young age, my parents instilled in me the value of working hard at whatever you want to do and achieve. They also stressed that hard work in academics is just as important as athletics. I guess it’s always been in my nature to want to work hard and excel.
Q: You were MVP of the 2015 USA Basketball U18 3×3 National Team Tournament last spring. Then, you earned international recognition with All-Tournament honors at the FIBA 3×3 U-18 World Championship. What was it like to be honored on a world stage and what was the biggest adjustment to playing with just six players on the floor at such an elite level?
A: I was so honored to represent Team USA. I really like the 3-on-3 game. It opens up so much space on the floor and every player really has be able to take the player guarding them to the hole. It helped me improve my game off the dribble.
Q: Your service and volunteerism is as good as the best we’ve seen in what is now a fourth decade of national Gatorade winners. Where do you find the time, energy and empathy to give back at such an extraordinary level?
A: Two or three years ago, I thought it’d be nice to help out at an after school program for at-risk kids called Panther Place, which is right next to our high school. But when I got there, there was an opportunity to help out by doing more. When I started teaching art to those kids, it really opened my mind to new ideas. Things have expanded and I continue to work with kindergarteners every day and it’s the best part of my day. It’s extremely rewarding.
Q: Your dad was a sharpshooter at Western Kentucky and your mom played basketball in high school and both give you plenty of basketball counsel. National Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year Drew Hunter is coached by both parents and told us last month: “The upside is that they know a lot … the downside is that sometimes they’re coaches first and parents second … we have little petty disagreements sometimes, but it’s no big deal. Sound familiar? And please elaborate?
A: It does sound familiar. I can remember car rides home when they were definitely coaches first. I think they did a really good job of teaching me how to be coachable, so I’d be better prepared when they passed me to someone else.
Q: There’s a good chance you’ll move from the four to the three at ND. Obviously, a huge adjustment. Is you’re first focus going to be pace of play and the lateral movement required to defend that position at that level?
A: Yes, it will be. Honestly, I want to play wherever they need me. Defense is something I’ve always focused on. I think I’ll put in the time and work to get stronger and do whatever it takes to make that transition.
Q: You’ll head to ND in June to settle in and work out with the team. Are you ready to be a Panthers alumnus and an Indiana resident in 10 weeks’ time?
A: It does seem crazy. I talk to people about being a Panthers’ alum soon and it’s gone so fast. I love this school and it helped me be the person I am today. Elizabethtown prepared me for the next level, personally, academically and as athlete.