A way-too-early look at the 2020 Michigan Miss Basketball frontrunners
Now that the dust has settled on the 2018-19 girls basketball season, and all of this year’s awards (or most of them, anyway) have been handed out, it’s a perfect time to look ahead at next winter, and who might be the frontrunners to succeed Detroit Edison’s Rickea Jackson as Michigan’s Miss Basketball. Remember, this award’s only for seniors, so that limits the field considerably.
Gabby Elliott, G/F, Detroit Edison
If you go by the ‘best player on the best team’ theory, Elliott probably goes into the season as the favorite to follow in her now-former teammate’s shoes as Miss Basketball. (Even if you just go with the ‘best player’ formula, you probably arrive at the same doorstep.) Elliott was Edison’s second-leading scorer at 17 points per game, but could easily put up mid-20s with a few more shots. The only things that might hurt her candidacy is the balance of the Edison offense, and the potential for an “Edison overload,” where — like other dynasties (think: Detroit Country Day in its heyday) — people begin to dismiss or ignore Edison players’ accomplishments, just because they’re talked about so much.
Whitney Sollom, C, Hartland
After easing into the season, coming off knee surgery, Sollom was on top of her game in the postseason, averaging 11.5 points and 13.5 rebounds in the Eagles’ run to a third quarterfinal in five seasons, and posting three double-doubles and one triple-double in six playoff games. Another year of integration with the younger cast of shooters and ball-handlers around her will just make everyone better — and that’s scary considering the recent run of postseason success for the Eagles.
Kenzie Lewis, PG, Williamston (Bowling Green)
Lewis’ freshman- and sophomore-year backcourt running mate, Maddie Watters, went into her senior season as one of the favorites for Miss Basketball, before a midseason knee injury derailed her candidacy, and now it’s Lewis’ turn to compete for the state’s top basketball award as a senior. The AP first-team all-stater averaged 14 points, eight rebounds, 4.5 assists and 3.9 steals for a Williamston program that will be itching to rectify its recent run of early postseason exits.
Cheyenne McEvans, G, Southfield A&T
A guard who can rebound like a forward (she led the hardly undersized Warriors with 12 rebounds per game), the athletic McEvans is a double-double waiting to happen. She was second on A&T in scoring at 17 points per game, but after playing second option to others — Michigan-bound Deja Church and Marshall-bound Alexis Johnson — through her first three seasons — two of which ended as part of the final four — it’ll be McEvans’ show to run as a senior.
Hannah Spitzley, G/F, Pewamo-Westphalia (Western Michigan)
Named the Division 3 Player of the Year by the Associated Press after helping lead P-W to its first-ever girls basketball title, Spitzley had to transform herself from a defender and a complementary scorer into one of the focal points of the Pirates’ offense as a junior. She led P-W at 14 points per game, adding 4.3 rebounds and 2.7 steals. Motivation? You know there’s going to be burning fire in her chest all offseason, and next season, to erase that final glimpse folks had of her in the D3 championship game, sitting on the bench after fouling out for just the second time in her career.
Elise Stuck, F, Charlevoix
After missing much of the summer recovering from a shoulder injury, Stuck helped the Rayders to a 19-3 record and a third straight district title, leading Charlevoix in scoring (21 points), rebounding (10.2), assists (53) and blocks (44). The school’s all-time leading scorer at 1,494 points, she has a legitimate shot at joining the elite 2,000-point club.
Sarah Miller, G, Birch Run
A two-time all-state selection with more than 1,400 career points already, Miller averaged 23.7 points and 10.9 rebounds for the Panthers this season. There’s no doubt that Miller can put up the requisite numbers, but the bigger issue may be under-exposure, given that Birch Run went 12-9 to finish second in a watered-down Tri-Valley East division, and lost in the opening round of districts.
Sophie Dziekan, F, Brighton (Bowling Green)
Like many of the others on this list, Dziekan was on a team that will lose very little to graduation — and one that captured its first district title in 10 seasons — meaning she’ll have plenty of options around her to ensure opposing defenses can’t just collapse in on her. Even when defenses do sag down, though, Dziekan’s shown the ability to find ways to score, and score in bunches, or find the open player when she gets double- or triple-teamed. Defense is always going to be the Brighton calling card, and Dziekan is a huge part of that, with her wingspan and rebounding ability, but she could be primed for a huge senior season offensively, as well.
Aaliyah Nye, G, East Lansing
One of the few East Lansing players who was able to negotiate her way through the stifling Saginaw Heritage defense in the 2018 Class A title game, Nye went from young, complementary scorer as a sophomore to the Trojans’ main offensive option as a junior, helping diffuse the loss of three high-scoring seniors. Thanks to her efforts — and those of fellow veteran juniors Ahlura Lofton and Sanaya Gregory, the Trojans didn’t miss a beat, despite their graduation losses, and won’t have that issue to deal with next season — this year’s East Lansing team had zero seniors.
Maddie Voelker, G, Goodrich (Northwood)
Of any on this list, Voelker may be the most used to putting up video-game offensive numbers, something she’s been doing since her freshman season. The three-time all-stater passed the 1,000-point plateau midway through last season, and holds the school’s single-game scoring mark. And it’s not like Goodrich doesn’t have a Miss Basketball pedigree: Taylor Gleason was a finalist in 2013, Tania Davis won the award in 2015, and Alexis Sevillian was a finalist in 2016.
Five more to watch:
Carly Crabtree, W, Coldwater (Central Michigan)
Makailah Griggs-Zeigler, W, Wayne Memorial (Michigan)
Jasmine Clerkley, PF, Okemos
Hadley Miller, W, Three Rivers
Dani Salenbien, G, Adrian Lenawee Christian