2018-19 BCR Girls Basketball Player of the Year
MANLIUS — Saige Barnett’s last season playing for the Bureau Valley Storm girls basketball team has seen its share of notable highlights.
She started off in November reaching a milestone of 1,000 career points during the Princeton Holiday Tournament, a scoring goal she set for herself as a freshman.
In January, she broke the all-time BV girls scoring record of 1,284 (previously held for 21 years by Bethany Ellis), finishing with 1,426 career points. Recently, she was a unanimous pick to the first team of the 2018-19 Three Rivers East Girls All-Conference Team.
Barnett can now add to her honors being named the 2018-19 BCR Girls Basketball Player of the Year.
“She has been a leader for me the last three years,” BV girls head coach Jim Nugent said. “She plays the most demanding position on the floor, and I expect her to lead this team in everything that we do at practice and during games. She has handled the pressure with poise and confidence.
“Every time I would put more on her plate, she would meet and exceed the challenge very quickly,” he added. “I have loved coaching her and will miss having her around next year. I am very excited to see what she accomplishes in her life.”
Barnett was the leading scorer in the area, averaging 16.4 ppg. She also led the Storm in assists (4.2), steals (3.1) and blocked shots (0.9) and averaged 4.5 rebounds.
As with her twin brother, Kale, a standout in his own right on the BV boys team, she started playing the game in her early grade school years.
“My brother was on a traveling basketball team with Tyler Gustafson, and his dad (Todd) was the coach, along with Jim Devenney and my dad,” she said. “We played basketball all winter every winter
until I was in eighth-grade, when I split off and played just girls sports.
“But that was huge, playing with the boys and being able to keep up with them. It translated over to girls basketball way more than I thought it would.”
Another turning point happened when she began playing in high school.
“I actually started off at post,” Barnett said. “I wasn’t a point guard until my sophomore year, when I paid more attention to what a guard did. My brother gave me a lot of pointers at home, so that helped.
“I’d watch film and see Kale play, and we are similar players in some ways, like in our facial expressions or how we approach certain situations. Whether it’s because we’re twins, I’m not sure.”
One of the things they have in common the most is their seemingly fearless drive to the basket.
“Oh yeah,” Barnett said with a laugh. “Draw some contact, for sure.”
Another one her coach appreciated was her game preparation.
“This is what I will miss most,” Nugent said. “Every day before practice would start, Saige would go over to the clock and pick up a practice plan. She would look over stuff we were learning or whatever team prep we were working on.
“A lot of times I would talk with her throughout practice about stuff in the plan, double checking if she felt her team understood certain things.”
“This ability to read and react to the situation is what has made her such a great player,” he continued. “She can read just about every player on the floor on both sides. She has that ability to change the flow of everything, within the game, in the blink of an eye.”
As much as Barnett has enjoyed her stellar high school career, basketball doesn’t seem to fit in her immediate plans.
“I don’t think I’ll be playing anything in college,” Barnett said. “I’ve had a couple of schools ask me for different sports, but I think I’m ready to move on and put this chapter of my athletic career behind me.
“I’ll be going to Illinois State and will probably be a teacher and minor in athletic coaching. (Basketball) will still be in my life, but just not participating.”
When asked whether Barnett would do well as a coach. Nugent did not hesitate to respond.
“Oh, definitely. She would make a great coach,” he said. “She understands the game, her positive demeanor, I can easily see her coaching.”