All-Area Girls Basketball: Player of the Year and First Team
Maine South senior Jacqui Grant is the Pioneer Press All-Area Girls Basketball Player of the Year for 2012-13. | J.Geil~For Sun-Times Media
ALL-AREA GIRLS BASKETBALL FIRST TEAM
Taylor Nazon (Sr.), Trinity
When senior starter Mikayla Leyden suffered a season-ending injury early in the year, Nazon’s role increased as the clear on-court leader for the Blazers (23-5), who won a share of a second-consecutive GCAC Red regular season title and the postseason tournament. The Loyola recruit averaged 16 points this season and scored 26 points in her final game. The senior guard finished with more than 1,200 points, 250 assists and 200 steals in her career.
Anna Schueler (Sr.), Loyola
One of the best all-around athletes in Chicagoland, Schueler was a guard who could will her team to a win. A season after contributing to Loyola’s fourth-place finish in Class 4A, the three-year varsity veteran led the Ramblers (21-8) to a share of the GCAC Red’s regular season title as a senior. Schueler, who will play lacrosse at Michigan in college, did it all on the court, averaging 13.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.5 steals per game.
Sydney Smith (Jr.), Vernon Hills
Smith, a 5-foot-10 forward, was a big reason why the Cougars repeated as the Class 3A state runner-up. Smith’s blocked shot late in overtime helped Vernon Hills beat three-time defending state champion Montini in the semifinals at Redbird Arena. The Vermont recruit and all-NSC selection led the team in scoring at 13.1 points per game and also contributed 6.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists per contest for the 31-3 club.
Jacqui Grant (Sr.), Maine South
A four-year varsity starter, Grant capped her career at Maine South with a 27-6 record and fourth regional title. The 6-foot-3 Illinois-bound center was a threat all over the court and was selected to the Class 4A all-state first team by the Associated Press after averaging 14.8 points, 7 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.3 blocks per game. Grant also earned all-CSL honors to go with all-tournament selections at Buffalo Grove and Dundee-Crown.
Jade Owens (Jr.), Fenwick
Most of coach Dave Power’s up-tempo offense runs through Owens, a junior point guard. Owens was named tournament MVP at Niles North, all-tournament at Dundee-Crown and all-ESCC. Her career-high was 28 points in Fenwick’s 99-97 overtime win at Marist Dec. 8, which ranked as one of the highest-scoring girls basketball games in state history. She averaged 19 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists on the season and has already scored more than 1,000 career points for the Friars (23-7).
Updated: March 21, 2013 2:24PM
Jacqui Grant is one of the all-time greatest Maine South girls basketball players.
She is the school’s second-leading career scorer and rebounder. She’s also a three-time all-CSL South pick.
Her accomplishments were the result of growing up in an environment where basketball was the family currency.
Grant’s father Josh, a 6-foot-9 forward, was a second-round pick out of Utah and played for the NBA’s Golden State Warriors during the 1993-94 season and in Europe. Her mother, Tina Grusecki, was a member of Niles West’s 1978-79 state championship team and went on to play at Elmhurst College. Her older brother, Josh Grant Jr., averaged 1.5 points his senior year at Maine South in 2009-10. Even Grant’s 8-year-old brother James has installed a Nerf hoop in the house.
“I let James win. I can’t always be the big bad sister,” said Jacqui Grant, the Pioneer Press Girls Basketball Player of the Year.
Tough is just what the 6-3 Jacqui Grant is when she plays against her peers. The make-up of her game — the strong post moves, the midrange jump shot — is a product of all those influences.
“She is unselfish to a fault, like her father,” said her mom, who stands 5-7. “She runs the floor so well. She got that from me.”
Josh Grant Jr. is a student at Butler University in Indianapolis. While home, he’ll attend Jacqui Grant’s games and when he’s at school he’ll check in by phone.
After the parents divorced when Jacqui Grant was in eighth grade, Josh Grant moved back to Utah. Josh Grant Jr., then in high school, became a sounding board and playing partner for his sister.
“It’s a foundation of our relationship,” Josh Grant Jr. said. “If she wants to complain about something basketball related, she can come to me or my mom.”
Neither hesitate to tell Jacqui Grant what she needs to hear. Whether it comes from Grusecki following a game or Josh Grant Jr. on the phone, all constructive criticism finds a rapt audience in Jacqui Grant.
“(Josh Grant Jr. will) say, ‘Next time, you should go to the basket with this hand,’” said Jacqui Grant, who has committed to play at Illinois. “She (Grusecki) can be tough and tell you like it is. It makes sense the way she talks to me.”
And why wouldn’t it? It’s the language of basketball, words Jacqui Grant’s family all know how to speak.