Girls Basketball: Player of the year pick a Heady moveHillcrest's Shannise Heady (31) proudly holds up the IHSA Class 3A Third-Place Trophy on Saturday, March 3, 2012 in Normal. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 21, 2012 9:24PM
When Shannise Heady was a freshman at Hillcrest High School, there were a few leaders to help her take her baby steps on the varsity team.
Two in particular were Uniquah Hampton and Ariel Rouse.
“I always looked up to them,” Heady said. “They were my inspiration to be a better basketball player.”
And examples of what she wanted to be. But would it be her destiny?
“I had no idea,” Heady said. “I was scared, counting down the years to when I was going to take their place.”
Fear didn’t last long. By the end of her freshman season, Heady was already putting impressive numbers on the board. As a sophomore and junior, she was one of the cornerstones on back-to-back Class 3A state second-place finishers.
As a senior, she was the undisputed leader on Hillcrest’s third consecutive team to make it to state.
“Shannise was a shining example of making extraordinary dreams happen,” Hillcrest coach John Maniatis said of the 2011-12 Beggars Pizza/SouthtownStar Girls Basketball Player of the Year. “She set her goals high and was a role model in her pursuit to be a winner.”
Heady, a 5-foot-11 guard, averaged 14.8 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 3.7 steals per game for the 28-4 Hawks.
She was all-tournament at the Rich South Galaxy and Hillcrest Holiday Classic, selected first team IBCA All-State, and a two-time South Suburban Blue division Player of the Year.
During her four-year varsity career, Hillcrest was 116-16.
“I have no regrets for my basketball career at all,” Heady said. “I feel like we came in and we learned from the mistakes in our losses, and we went and did what we had to do.
“This year we worked hard to overcome obstacles as a team. I feel I led everybody to be comfortable with each other and be happy, and be teammates and sisters, like we are now.”
Heady made an immediate impact as a varsity Hawk, averaging 8.9 points in her freshman season. She had 13 in one of the biggest wins in the program’s history, a 61-33 decision over Lemont that put Hillcrest into the Elite Eight for the first time.
Her real coming out party, though, occurred during her sophomore campaign, when she scored 21 points in the title game against Rich Central and earned MVP honors in the Hillcrest Holiday Classic. That season her points per game increased to 12.5.
“I think it was a matter of confidence,” Heady said. “When I came in as a freshman I was pretty much all defense and hustle plays. I improved on attacking the basket more and being more assertive on the offensive end.
“Pumpkin (Uniquah Hampton), she basically kind of took me in as a freshman and sophomore and told me, ‘Play your game. You’re good. Do what you do and don’t hold back.’”
Heady averaged 15.2 points as a junior, but was responsible also for 6.2 assists per game.
“You’ve got to think about everybody, not just yourself,” she said. “You’ve got to think about what’s good for everybody and for the team, first.
“It’s not what’s good for me and what I should do, it’s what we should do. That’s why I like getting assists. I like having my teammates become better.”
Heady, whose career goal is administrative nursing, will play Division I college ball at Seton Hall.
“I cannot wait to get to Seton Hall,” she said. “I love the environment, and my future teammates are really all about basketball.
“I feel like it can be my second home. My second Hillcrest.”