There was a time early in her career that Olathe East senior Sydney Wilson felt like she settled for the quick shot. On too many occasions, she squared up with the rim and released a jumper, bypassing the opportunity to move into the lane.
No more, she thought. In an effort to become a more complete player, she spent the offseason working on driving the basketball and finishing around the rim.
It paid dividends her senior season. Wilson averaged 19.4 points per game, shooting better than 50 percent from the floor. She led Olathe East to a 24-1 record and a second-place finish in Kansas Class 6A.
Wilson is The Star’s All-Metro girls basketball player of the year.
“I felt like most people were close up, face-guarding me,” Wilson said. “But I have a quick first step, so once I started driving to the hole, it made everything easier for me.”
In the event that Olathe East needed a bucket this season, coach Clint Evans went to his senior, a two-time finalist for the DiRenna Award who was named the Sunflower League player of the year.
In the event that Olathe East needed a defensive stop, Evans turned to Wilson there, too. And unlike the tweaks to her offensive repertoire, defense has been a part of her game that has been there from the beginning. Throughout her career, she was frequently matched up against an opponent’s top scorer. She finished with more steals than any player in school history.
“I feel like defense has always been my go-to,” Wilson said. “I’ve always liked playing defense.”
Wilson was a contributor in every aspect of the game. In addition to her 19.4 points per outing, she averaged 6.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 3.2 steals.
She will attend Missouri State.
“No one made their teammates better than Sydney (did),” Evans said. “She is everything you would want in your best player."
2017-18 All-Metro Girls Basketball
Aiyana Johnson, Lee’s Summit North, senior.
In a program rich with tradition, Johnson set a school record by averaging 18.4 points per game, and she added a team-best 9.1 rebounds per contest. She will join her two older sisters at Stephen F. Austin next fall.
Chandler Prater, North Kansas City, junior.
A three-time conference player of the year, Prater led the Hornets to a third straight league title, posting 21.4 points, 6.9 rebounds, 4.1 steals and 3.8 assists per game. She made 30 three-pointers for the season. She has picked up heavy Division I interest.
Sereena Weledji, St. Thomas Aquinas, senior.
It was a fitting end to an accomplished career, with Weledji leading the Saints to a third straight Kansas Class 5A state title. A lockdown defender, she also contributed 13.3 points and 6.5 rebounds per game and was named the Eastern Kansas League player of the year. She has committed to Penn.
Alecia Westbrook, Park Hill South, junior.
Westbrook was a double-double machine for the Panthers, totaling 15.5 points and 12.0 rebounds per game. She shot 53 percent from the floor and stepped out to make 31 percent of her three-point attempts. She was also a force on defense with 3.6 steals and 1.6 blocks per outing.
Sydney Wilson, Olathe East, senior.
A player who filled the box score, Wilson averaged 19.4 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.2 steals and 2.6 assists per game, helping Olathe East to a second-place finish in Kansas Class 6A. She finished as the school’s all-time leader in steals and will attend Missouri State.
Sarah Beth Gueldner, Olathe Northwest, junior; Kayel Newland, Liberty, senior; Callie Schwarzenbach, Kearney, senior; E'lease Stafford, Lawrence, senior; Payton Verhulst, Bishop Miege, freshman.