Karissa McLaughlin will go down in history as one of the greatest girls basketball players ever from northeast Indiana.
But if you ask the reserved Homestead senior to talk about how she compares to Tiffany Gooden, Megan King and some of the best girls prep hoopsters ever, you won't get much in the way of boasting.
"I do think a little bit about where I am locally," said McLaughlin. "But all I can do is be thankful for everything that has happened, embrace it and realize that there have been so many good players and to be one of those players towards the top, it's just truly an awesome feeling to say you're part of that."
After leading the Spartans to their first-ever girls basketball state championship this past season, the Indiana All-Star and presumptive favorite to be named Miss Basketball next week is an easy choice for this year's News-Sentinel Girls Basketball Player of the Year honor.
McLaughlin averaged over 25 points and 5.6 assists per game in her final prep season, including 29 points in the Class 4A state championship victory over Pike. Her 2,577 career points (according to the IHSAA) is good for 10th overall in state history and second all time in northeast Indiana, trailing only King, who graduated from Canterbury in 2007 with 2,652 career points.
"The great thing about Karissa is her efficiency," said Vernard Hollins of Always 100. "She can take six or seven shots and score 18 points. She does not need a lot of shots to generate her points."
When it comes to the inevitable comparisons with King, Gooden and others, Homestead coach Rod Parker points out the success the Spartans had over the last four years, a span of time that saw the program go 103-10.
"I believe the things that separates Karissa is the difficult schedules we played over her four years," Parker said. "And while it goes both ways, we had some very talented kids playing alongside her. In terms of pure numbers, she didn't have to do as much with girls like Sydney Buck, Madisen Parker, Josie Fisher, Lindley Kistler and Jazmyne Geist on the team."
McLaughlin averaged over 16 points per game for the Spartans as a freshman and only got better from there. A tireless work ethic and an unmatched drive to get better saw the guard build upon her skill set season after season.
It culminated this past season with a state title.
"To be the special player she is requires an incredible amount of self-motivation," Parker said. "Her being intrinsically motivation is what separates her."
Parker recognized those attributes even when McLaughlin was still in middle school when he had the opportunity to coach her in AAU.
Now as a graduating senior, Parker is not surprised at the kind of player McLaughlin has become.
"Even after her sophomore year, you really had to ask the question, 'How much better can she get?'" Parker said. "Then she showed tremendous improvement as a junior and then again as a senior."
"I told (Purdue coach Sharon Versyp) one of the unique things about Karissa is that she has not yet reached her ceiling and she is always pushing herself."
Heading to West Lafayette for college, McLaughlin knows the challenges will only increase in difficulty. But do not expect her to change much of anything in her approach, or to suddenly grow comfortable talking about just how good of a basketball player she is.
"You just have to say to yourself to make sure you always have a love for the game," said McLaughlin.
RECENT NEWS-SENTINEL GIRLS BASKETBALL PLAYERS OF THE YEAR
2017 - Karissa McLaughlin, Homestead
2016 - Karissa McLaughlin, Homestead
2015 - Darby Maggard, Canterbury
2014 - Kindell Fincher, Canterbury
2013 - Ariana Simmons, South Side
2012 - Jessica Rupright, Norwell
2011 - Liza Clemons, Snider
2010 - Tabitha Gerardot, Canterbury
2009 - Lecretia Smith, Elmhurst
2008 - Amanda Pedro, Bishop Luers
2007 - Sha'la Jackson, South Side
2006 - Megan King, Canterbury
2005 - Stefanie Gerardot, Bishop Luers
2004 - Nora Didrick, North Side
2003 - Abby Noll, Carroll
2002 - Lindy Carey, Leo
2001 - Rachel King, Bishop Luers