Just outside Benet's gym in early February, Larry Parker could be seen talking with Danielle Campbell.
The 6-foot-5-inch senior from Young, which had just beaten the host Redwings, listened intently. She was coming off an 11-point, 10-rebound performance. But Parker saw so much more in her.
"I just told her, 'You know what? You're the difference-maker on this team. You're the person other teams have trouble matching up with,'" he said.
Parker knows a bit about basketball. He played at Iowa, raised a son (Anthony) who made it to the NBA and his daughter (Candace) may be the best girls player to come out of Illinois.
"She's a wonderful young lady," Parker said the other day about Campbell. "Very sweet, very respectful."
And very good on the basketball court. That's why Campbell joins New Trier's Deirdre Naughton, Bartlett's Lindsay Schrader, Peoria Richwoods' Biannca Ward and Olney East Richland's Brittany Johnson on the 2004-05 Tribune All-State Girls Basketball Team.
After that little talk with someone she literally has to look up to Parker is 6-53/4Campbell responded with some big games.
In the sectional final against Marshall, she had 26 points and 12 rebounds. Young had to get by New Trier in the supersectionals. Last season the Dolphins lost that game by 23 points. This time, with Campbell scoring 17 and grabbing 15 rebounds, they eliminated the Trevians.
When Young lost its semifinal matchup with eventual Class AA state champion Peoria Richwoods, Campbell had 26 points and 11 rebounds. For the season, the Purdue signee averaged 14 points, 12.5 rebounds and four blocks a game.
Two of Campbell's All-State senior teammates, Naughton and Schrader, pushed their way to the top of fans' lists for best player in the Chicago area, if not the state.
Schrader averaged 22.1 points, 10.6 rebounds and led Bartlett to the Class AA state championship game, which it lost 52-48 to Peoria Richwoods. In that game she tied a state championship mark with 18 rebounds. Schrader defines basketball at the Upstate Eight school, which opened in 1998.
"I don't know how many schools get to say this, that they've got a McDonald's All-American," Bartlett coach Denise Sarna said after her team's 30-5 season. "It just doesn't happen every day."
The 6-foot forward, who will continue her basketball career at Notre Dame, finished with 2,423 career points. If she hadn't fallen ill late in her junior year, Schrader undoubtedly would have surpassed the 2,500 mark.
Wake Forest women's coach Mike Peterson is delighted to have nabbed Naughton, New Trier's leading all-time scorergirls or boys. The 5-10 senior averaged 24 points, 3.9 steals and 3.3 assists, guided the Trevians to a runner-up state finish in 2004 and wound up with 2,144 career points.
"She's so versatile," Peterson said. "She's a really good athlete who can handle the ball."
Naughton was outstanding in January when New Trier (29-5) went 11-0. She followed up a 31-point game against Hope with 30 against Buffalo Grove. A few days later, she had 32 points and eight steals in a two-point victory over St. Louis Incarnate Word, one of Missouri's top teams.
Peoria Richwoods coach John Gross said Ward, whose family moved from Joliet before her freshman year of high school, "is the best sophomore I've coached." Gross was at Bartonville Limestone for 26 years and is closing in on 600 career victories. The 5-4 guard averaged 15.7 points in guiding the Knights to the best record ever compiled by a girls basketball team in the state38-0.
"She's super quick, handles the ball well and does it all," said Gross, whose former players include former Ms. Basketball Tammy Van Oppen.
Olney coach Curt Dobbs knows his high school is out of the way, but that hasn't stopped a procession of college coaches from coming to see his sophomore standout. The 5-10 Johnson scored 929 pointsthe 11th best season in Illinois girls history. With 1,784 career points, Johnson is on target to beat the all-time scoring mark set by Williamsville's Angie Sapp (3,403).
"LSU came to watch her play twice," said Dobbs, referring to a team that spent much of the year at the top of the women's rankings. And his list went on: "Kansas State, Arizona, Purdue, Iowa, Northwestern "
Johnson's shooting percentage can only be termed remarkable. She made 347 of 652 attempts (54 percent) and was 195 of 216 from the free-throw line. And her 47 consecutive free throws demolished the previous state mark (39).