Jewell Loyd felt the gym stand still when
walked in to watch Niles West's Thanksgiving tournament game against Waukegan in November. Loyd didn't know Pat Summitt had caught her performance against Maine South on Jan. 28 until a friend texted her the news after the game.
Not even women's college basketball's two biggest names rattled the Niles West junior.
"I've played AAU, so I'm used to a lot of college coaches around the gym and being aware of that," Loyd said. "(Summitt) came to watch me play, so I take that as a huge honor. It's not often you get a coach like that in your gym. It put a huge smile on everyone's faces.
"When Geno walks in the gym, you know he's in the building. He walked in and I swear the whole gym stopped. To have a coach like him in the gym, it's great for the team."
Connecticut's Auriemma and Tennessee's Summitt are just the beginning of what coach Tony Konsewicz said has been a "who's who of who's watching her play" this season at Niles West. But it's her elite statistics — not her elite company — that have earned Loyd the title of Chicago Tribune/WGN-Ch. 9 Preps Plus Athlete of the Month for January.
A Tribune All-State first-team selection as a sophomore, the 5-foot-10 guard/forward has elevated her play to lead an inexperienced Niles West squad with 30.1 points, 15 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 4.5 steals and 3.2 blocks per game.
In January she averaged 27.1 points — including 39 points against New Trier and Glenbrook South — and 16.5 rebounds to help Niles West improve to 18-9, 6-3 in the Central Suburban League South. Three days before the New Year, she scored a career-high 46 points against St. Francis.
Konsewicz has been watching Loyd play in local leagues since sixth grade, when she added basketball to tennis in her athletic repertoire. He remembers thinking that she could have played for a high school team then.
Along with her rising offensive output in the last three years, he's watched her grow stronger and become a better defender, improvement Loyd said came from playing on the USA Basketball U17 National Team last summer in Spain and France.
Her play during her first time overseas helped Loyd build a No. 6 national ranking in the junior class, according to
HoopGurlz. The sister of Jarryd Loyd, a former player at Niles West and Valparaiso, said her recruiting experience already has been more intense than her brother's, even though she hasn't yet entered the thick of the process that will follow her junior season.
Loyd said the Niles West athletics department and her family have done a good job of filtering requests from her many suitors, of which she is not ready to pick.
"Teams just gravitate toward her," Konsewicz said.
That doesn't necessarily start with college teams. In a world where standout players frequently transfer to top high school basketball programs, Loyd has stuck with a Niles West team that won its first sectional title in 30 years last season. Yearly rumors about her potential moves arise.
"After I came back from overseas, the first thing I hear is, 'Jewell Loyd is transferring to Bolingbrook.' And I'm like, 'What?'" Loyd said. "It's crazy that people say stuff like that.
"Not at all (is she tempted to transfer). I feel like if you do, you're leaving your team. You're giving up on them. I don't want to give up on people. I want to finish what I start. That's how I am with everything. I'm going to help Niles West build and earn respect."
Jewell Loyd file
Averaging 30.1 points, 15 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 4.5 steals and 3.2 blocks per game. Scored a career-high 46 points Dec. 29 against St. Francis.
Niles West's Jewell Loyd will be featured during a segment on
"Instant Replay" at 9:40 p.m. Sunday. If you miss it, watch the video Monday at prepsplus.com.
Athletes of the Month
Kapri Bibbs, Plainfield North, football
, Stevenson, golf
Haley Sims, Downers Grove North, swimming