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Gabby Elliott fulfills premonition from a year ago, following former teammate as first back-to-back winners of BCAM’s Miss Basketball

By: MATTHEW B. MOWERY, March 13, 2020, 2:38 pm

DETROIT — When the 2019 Miss Basketball Award was handed to Detroit Edison’s Rickea Jackson a year ago, nobody was more happy for her than longtime teammate Gabrielle Elliott.

But there was a thought in the back of the junior’s mind that day: “What if that’s ME next year?”

That was merely reinforced, when her coach, Monique Brown, told her essentially the same thing.

“Of course I did, and coach Brown came up next to me after and was like ‘That could be you next year.’ It was just a great feeling to have, to know that I could be here,” Elliott recalled. “And to actually be here today — it’s crazy.”

That premonition became a reality this week.

Elliott may not (yet) have the ammunition to one-up former teammate Jackson, but she’s just adding to her bragging rights with her brother.

Elliott was named the 40th winner of the Mick McCabe Miss Basketball award, given out jointly by the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan and the Detroit Free Press, in a small ceremony Friday afternoon at Detroit Edison Public School Academy.

Elliott joined Jackson as winners of the award, becoming the first-ever twosome from the same school to win it in back-to-back seasons. 

“It’ll build my legacy, definitely. Something like this has never been done, back-to-back (at the same) school. It’s a happy moment,” Elliott said, admitting the last 48 hours have been a whirlwind of emotions, given the MHSAA putting the tournament on “pause” due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Of course I’m happy to have just gotten this award. It’s a great honor, but it’s my senior year, and I do want to finish out the season. To know that it might possibly not happen, it’s crazy. It’s kind of heart-breaking. Something like this is for sure getting my mind off of it. … We haven’t moved past it, because there’s eight of us seniors, and we really wanted to close out the year with a bang, like make a stamp, finish our legacy. So we haven’t gotten over it yet. Something like this is distracting us from it.”

In all likelihood, unless the MHSAA resumes its tournament — in which Edison was supposed to be playing for a fourth straight regional title Thursday night, part of the path to a potentially record-tying fourth straight state title — the twosome will finish with the same number of championships: 3.

Elliott finished with 3,891 points (votes are assigned values of 5-3-1 points), while East Lansing’s Aaliyah Nye was second with 3,367, and Hartland’s Whitney Sollom just 34 points behind at 3,335. 

“I was on the ballot with amazing players, so it’s understandable to be that close,” Elliott said. “I played with Aaliyah Nye — she’s an amazing player. So I understand why the votes were that close.”

It was something that Brown could see as a very distinct possibility a year ago.

“Absolutely. And you could tell, just the beginning of the season, we’re on the track … and you could just tell the difference. It’s like the responsibility — like ‘Rickea’s gone, and it’s going to be on me.’ The first question she was asked after the state championship last year was ‘What are you going to do now that Rickea is gone?’ So she felt the pressure. But she responded. I think she responded tremendously,” said Brown, noting that it was Elliott’s turn to shine after Jackson graduated and went on to dominate at Mississippi State.

“Rickea definitely got a lot of the light, but she (Elliott) was always shining, and she always knew that. She always knew her importance. It was just a matter of time before everyone realized it was actually two people.”

Part of that was the difference in the two personalities. Jackson is outgoing and ebullient, while Elliott is much more low-key.

“We just call her ‘The Silent Assassin.’ She’s not going to ruffle anybody’s feathers. She’s just going to come in and work. She’s always been one of the hardest workers we’ve ever had here. Always just a true winner, will do whatever it takes to win. You ask her to rebound, like ‘This game we need to rebound,’ and she won’t worry about scoring. She’s played injured. And to see her get what her work has put in, it’s awesome for her,” Brown said. “After Rickea left, the vocal leadership part had to come into play. We have a group of freshmen and a group of seniors, and just always trying to speak with them about how important this year is. She’s such a mild-mannered young lady. She never yells or fusses a lot. It was great to see the seniors respond to her.”

Brown found out last weekend, and called Elliott into her office after practice to break the news, having the senior call up her parents to tell them all the news together.

“I’m going to tell you, the happiest I’ve ever seen Gabby was when I told her she’d won Miss Basketball,” Brown said. “That was the happiest I had seen her since probably the first state championship, so that was awesome.”

One of the first people Elliott told after that was her older brother, Greg, who’d been a finalist for Mr. Basketball in 2017, as a senior at East English Village.

“It means a lot. My brother had a chance to win, and he didn’t, so I feel like I just won it for the both of us. I’m very happy right now, very excited for whatever comes next. Really happy,” Elliott said. “He was happy. He said it was something else I’ve done that he couldn’t do, as far as like whenever we talk, it’s like ‘I’m better than you, but I don’t have three championships like you do.’  Stuff like that. He was really happy. He was one of the first people I told.”

It also brightened the day of the remainder of the Edison team, who didn’t know why they were coming to the school’s media center at 1 p.m. in the afternoon.

“We kinda knew about this a couple of days ago. I always knew this, the girls didn’t know, so before we came in here, they thought we were having a meeting about the season being canceled. So for them, to see them smile today when I told them Gabby won Miss Basketball, that just made me feel better,” Brown said, acknowledging the whiplash of emotion from one day to the next.

“Wow. It’s crazy, because we were getting geared up to go play the regional championship yesterday. We were sitting 22-0, with a chance to win our fourth championship, and to get the news we won’t be able to play? We were good with no fans, as long as we were playing. To get that, it was a very sad day for us.

“Today, to see her get that award, it just relieves us, because we still made some history.”

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The Miss Basketball winners:

1981 — Julie Polakowski, Leland (Michigan State) 

1982 — Sue Tucker, Okemos (Michigan State) 

1983 — Michele Kruty, Manistee (Dayton) 

1984 — Emily Wagner, Livonia Ladywood (Stanford) 

1985 — Franthea Price, River Rouge (Iowa) 

1986 — Daedra Charles, Detroit de Porres (Tennessee) 

1987 — Dena Head, Plymouth Salem (Tennessee) 

1988 — Jennifer Shasky, Birmingham Marian (George Washington) 

1989 — Peggy Evans, Detroit Country Day (Tennessee/Ohio State) 

1990 — Markita Aldridge, Detroit King (UNC-Charlotte) 

1991 — Lisa Negri, Flint Powers (Ohio State) 

1992 — Erinn Reed, Saginaw (Iowa/Kansas)

1993 — Sally Sedlar, Manistee (Toledo/Central Michigan)

1994 — Kim Knuth, St. Joseph (Toledo)

1995 — Maxann Reese, Bishop Borgess (Michigan State)

1996 — Deanna Nolan, Flint Northern (Georgia)

1997 — Aiysha Smith, Bishop Borgess (St. John’s/LSU)

1998 — Kristen Koetsier, Grandville (Western Michigan)

1999 — Vicki Krapohl, Mt. Pleasant (Duke)

2000 — Tabitha Pool, Ann Arbor Huron (Michigan)

2001 — Liz Shimek, Maple City Glen Lake (Michigan State)

2002 — Danielle Kamm, Saginaw Nouvel (Marquette)

2003 — Krista Clement, St. Ignace La Salle (Michigan)

2004 — Tiffanie Shives, Lansing Christian (Michigan State/Gonzaga)

2005 — Allyssa DeHaan, Grandville (Michigan State)

2006 — Brenna Banktson, Frankfort (Western Michigan)

2007 — No award given *

2008 — Kellie Watson, Ionia (Notre Dame/Grand Valley State)

2009 — Jenny Ryan, Saginaw Nouvel (Michigan)

2010 — Klarissa Bell, East Lansing (Michigan State)

2011 — Jasmine Hines, Central Lake (Michigan State)

2012 — Madison Ristovski, Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett (Michigan)

2013 — Tori Jankoska, Freeland (Michigan State)

2014 — Lexi Gussert, Crystal Falls Forest Park (Michigan State)

2015 — Tania Davis, Goodrich (Iowa)

2016 — Kysre Gondrezick, Benton Harbor (Michigan/West Virginia)

2017 — Jordan Walker — Mona Shores (Western Michigan)

2018 — Jaida Hampton, East Lansing (Wichita State University)

2019 — Rickea Jackson, Detroit Edison (Mississippi State)

2020 — Gabrielle Elliott, Detroit Edison (Clemson)