Girls prep hoops: The 2017 Fabulous Five

DeKalb senior Leigha Brown is coming off a season where she averaged the program’s first-ever double-double. (By Dan Vance of News-Sentinel.com)
South Side senior Shamari Tyson has been MIA after a transfer and an ACL tear, but she could be the missing piece for the Archers. (By Justin Kenny of News-Sentinel.com)
Bellmont junior Grace Hunter has helped take the Squaws from winless to a sectional title. Can they repeat a sectional crown this year? (By Dan Vance of News-Sentinel.com)
Central Noble junior Sydney Freeman is one of two Cougars who could hit 1,000 career points this season. (By Dan Vance of News-Sentinel.com)
Homestead sophomore Sydney Graber was part of a state champion team in her first year of high school and followed it up with a summer of scholarship offers. (By Dan Vance of News-Sentinel.com)

For the 25th straight year, The News-Sentinel has selected it’s Fabulous Five of girls high school basketball. The Fabulous Five, whose first girls team was selected in 1993, names what The News-Sentinel deems as the top five area players in the preseason.

About her inclusion on the inaugural girls team, Snider great Tiffany Gooden told The News-Sentinel in a 2015 retrospective:

“I hope that the girls participating in high school basketball today make the most of their opportunities in ways that help create a solid foundation upon which they can build in their future endeavors.”

Here are the 2017 honorees:

LEIGHA BROWN, DEKALB SENIOR

In the process of being named Associated Press All-State honorable mention, Brown put up some of the best numbers in school history last year, with per-game averages of 22.9 points and 10.8 rebounds. She became the first player in DeKalb girls basketball history to average a double-double and broke a 34-year record at the school for rebounds per game.

“These first couple of practices, the intensity and energy level is through the roof,” Brown said. “I incorporated a lot of new moves into my skill set this summer — Vernard Hollins helped me out with that. My energy level has definitely picked up. I’m excited to show how much I’ve worked and gotten better.”

She is the first player from DeKalb to be named to the Fabulous Five since Maria Recker in 1998.

SHAMARI TYSON, SOUTH SIDE SENIOR

Tyson is a curious case heading into her final high school season. She was declared ineligible to compete as a junior after transferring from Wayne to South Side and played junior varsity for the Archers last season. When we last saw her take to the varsity court as a freshman, she averaged 22 points and 2.3 steals per game as the point guard while outshining Fabulous Five teammate Tashayla Sutorious as the star Generals.

“Considering the fact that I’ve been in the gym and working to get better makes it way more exciting to know that I’m actually ready now, to play at a varsity level again,” Tyson said.

She is the first member of the Fabulous Five from South Side since Brittni Clopton in 2013.

GRACE HUNTER, BELLMONT JUNIOR

Hunter burst onto the scene as a freshman, but really broke out as a sophomore in pushing Bellmont to their best record in years with a conference title just three years removed from a zero-win season. Hunter averaged 17.2 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.7 steals per game last season.

“My mindset never changes, the focus remains the same,” Hunter said. “All it takes is one spark to light the fire. When someone comes in and says, ‘We can do this,’ more and more pieces come in and the culture changes.”

Hunter is the first Bellmont girl to ever be named to the Fabulous Five.

SYDNEY FREEMAN, CENTRAL NOBLE JUNIOR

Just five years removed from a zero-win season, Freeman led the Cougars to 27 wins last season with their first-ever sectional and regional titles. As a sophomore, Freeman averaged 16.4 points, 5.2 assists and a huge 5.8 steals per game as one of the area’s elite defenders and possibly the best on-ball defender in all of Class 2A.

“We do more higher-level things than last year,” Freeman said. “Girls basketball is becoming a big thing, so everyone wants to play and be out there and get better.”

Like Bellmont’s Hunter, Freeman is the first Fabulous Five player in her school’s history.

SYDNEY GRABER, HOMESTEAD SOPHOMORE

The 6-foot tall Graber started to really establish herself as a future threat during Homestead’s Class 4A state title game win in March and then exploded during the summer circuit. While her 3.5 points and 4.6 rebounds per game averages from last year may seem low, her job description changes significantly this season. Her smooth shot will transition well when she has to come outside of the post and college teams have taken notice with almost double-digit Division 1 scholarship offers coming in since last season.

“It really helped that last year I got that experience. Playing in the state finals changed me as a player, it really taught me how to play under pressure,” Graber said. “I’m taking everything I learned last year and contributing it this year. It’s really important to keep after being a leader this year.”

She follows last year’s Spartan Fabulous Five honorees Karissa McLaughlin, Madisen Parker and Jazmyne Geist as the Spartans have now had a Fabulous Five player five years in a row.

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