Player of the Year: Jewell Loyd

Jewel Loyd's scoring was not surprising, but she took pride in how hard she worked at rebounding. Scott Powers for ESPNChicago.com

When a player is considered the No. 1 shooting guard in the country, there's a built-in assumption she can score with the best of them.

Niles West senior Jewell Loyd is ranked the No. 1 shooting guard in the country by ESPN, and no surprise, she can fill up the net. She averaged 26.9 points as a senior and finished seventh on the state's career scoring list with 3,077 points.

But what one doesn't expect out of the nation's top shooting guard is for her to also be a dominant rebounder, especially playing against plenty of 6-foot-plus opponents in the Chicago area. But that's also Loyd. She averaged 12 rebounds as a senior and finished 12th in the state for her career with 1,478 rebounds.

There wasn't much Loyd didn't do throughout her four-year career. She scored. She rebounded. She defended (275 career blocked shots and 402 steals).

Not since Candace Parker left her stamp on Illinois high school basketball has the state possessed a player with Loyd's all-around skills. For that, she is the ESPNChicago.com 2011-2012 Girls Basketball Player of the Year.

"I truly think she's one of the best in Illinois we have ever seen," Niles West coach Tony Konsewicz said. "I would definitely put her right in the same sentence as Candace Parker."

Loyd was flattered with such comparisons, but she's never been one to measure herself by other players. Even this season where plenty of people wanted to make the year about Loyd vs. Bolingbrook's Morgan Tuck for the crown as the state's best player, Loyd wanted nothing to do with it.

"Morgan and I have totally different styles of games," Loyd said. "If we're talking about post games, she would kill me. If we're talking about perimeter play, I hope I would beat her. She's not a guard. We're friends off the court. What they've done at Bolingbrook is great. What I did at Niles West is great."

Niles West struggled before Loyd's arrival. The Wolves hadn't won a conference title since 1985, regional since 1998 and a sectional since 1981.

In Loyd's four years, Niles West won 88 games, two conference championships, three regional championships and one sectional title.

"I think this is the most overwhelming reason she's the player of the year," Konsewicz said. "We were a 7-8-game winner perennially, and over her career span, we won 88 games in four years. Everybody knows about Jewell. Every game we went into she was double- and triple-teamed. She can't win games by herself. She made other players better."

Like a lot of the state's best players before her, Loyd was driven to win more than anything.

"I'm really competitive," Loyd said. "What motivated me this year was to make everyone better. We lost a lot of great players from last year. We were rebuilding. We were trying to find out what we could do. People didn't think we could win conference. I definitely wanted to prove some things to certain people. We wanted to get back to sectionals."

And they did. Loyd put up 23 first-half points in a win over Lincoln Park to win Niles West its third consecutive regional. Her career was ended the following game by Glenbrook South in the New Trier sectional semifinals. Loyd had 31 points and 14 rebounds in her final game.

Of all Loyd has accomplished individually in career, she's most proud of her rebounding.

"I started rebounding a lot the past 2-3 years," Loyd said. "I'm a 5-10 guard rebounding over 6-foot post players. I'm so proud of that. Rebounds all come down to your heart. You see how big my heart is when I play."

Before taking her talents to Notre Dame, Loyd will play one final time near home. She was one of three area players selected to the McDonald's All-American Game. Like always, Loyd will have one mission in the game.

"Anytime I play basketball, I want to win," Loyd said. "I want to win my last home game in Chicago. There will be some fun and we'll enjoy our time, but when it comes down the last few minutes of the game you want to win."

Konsewicz will miss that killer instinct, but it's not what he'll miss most.

"People have asked me what I was thinking about the last game she was on the floor for Niles West," Konsewicz said. "I thought it was bittersweet. It was sweet knowing she's going to a big-time program. The bitter part was missing the person she is. She's a really good basketball player, but she's twice the kids she is a basketball player."