MOUNT CARMEL, Ill. — A girl, no more than 6 or 7, nervously squeezed her mother's hand.
The two approached Tyra Buss, whose mother, Kelly, stood next to her in the lobby at downstate Mount Carmel High School.
"Go ahead," the girl's mother said.
Pause gave way to the girl's voice. She inched closer.
"Tyra, I've been playing a lot better my last two games since I saw you play," she said, shyly.
Tyra Buss smiled. Her mother too.
"But I still can't shoot from the white line."
Even the little girl knew Tyra's range knows no bounds. She delivered her punch line to a gaggle of giggles.
Tyra shared words of encouragement. The scene was nothing new.
On this night, senior night, Tyra Buss added 55 points to a resume that is one of the most impressive in the history of high school girls basketball.
"Ever since freshman year, when she had this little girl come up to her and ask her for an autograph, she's like, 'Me?' " Kelly said. "She was embarrassed. … She thought that was so weird.
"Now she embraces it and loves it."
She loves working with young kids, interacting with them, win or lose. Loves all the cards and letters of support she's received over the years. Responds to every one.
But the sport she loves, or at least what comes with it, doesn't always love her back.
No. 3 is No. 2, No. 1
Tyra Buss, who wears No. 3, led the nation in scoring at 46.9 points per game going into the postseason, which began with a victory Tuesday. She's the state's all-time leader with 4,745 career points through the end of the regular season, good enough for second all-time nationally.
Green signs on opposite ends of this tiny (pop. 7,300), southern Illinois town that leans on the banks of the Wabash River are a reminder to all who pass through that Buss was named Ms. Basketball of Illinois last season.
The 5-foot-7 point guard broke her own state record, set last season, for most points in a season. She will finish with the highest career scoring average in state history. She has made the most field goals in a season and career. She's made more free throws than anyone.
She has a perfect 5.0 grade-point average and is tied for first in her class. She's an all-state athlete in four sports, including track, where her mother coaches her.
She's going to Indiana on a basketball scholarship. She doesn't cuss.