ESPNChicago.com's Athlete of Week


Niles West sophomore guard Jewell Loyd's jumper just wouldn't fall for her in the third quarter of Monday's matchup with highly ranked Trinity.

As each shot rattled out of the rim, landed short or ended up too long, she grew increasingly frustrated. Unsure what to do, she looked up into the stands and saw her older brother Jarryd motioning for her to fake the shot, so she could drive around the defender.

Loyd nodded. From there, her offensive production picked up again as she began taking the ball to the rim. She would lead the Wolves to a come-from-behind victory, scoring 26 of her team's 39 points. She also added 13 rebounds, two assists, one steal and one block.

For most, it would be a career night. For Loyd, it was an average game. It's why she is the ESPNChicago.com Prep Athlete of the Week.

"She's a find," Niles West coach Tony Konsewicz said. "She really is. She's a talent. They don't come around like that very often."

Niles West's boys basketball program experienced a similar find in the early portion of the decade when Jarryd Loyd played for the Wolves. Jarryd went on to star in college at Valparaiso and now plays professionally in Poland. He returned home on Sunday to be with his family.

For Jewell Loyd, it was a treat to have her brother, eight years her elder and her basketball mentor, in the crowd for Monday's game.

"He's meant everything to my game," she said. "Ever since I was young, I watched him play. I guess I got good from playing him and watching him play. I didn't play until I was like in seventh grade on a team. I just always watched basketball. Basketball was just in my family. My mom played, my dad played, it was just there."

How exactly Loyd became so good is a mystery to her and her family. They often discuss when and how her talent arrived. It just seemed to happen overnight.

"I watch something, and I pick it up fast," Loyd said. "My IQ for basketball is just there. I don't know. I guess it's just watching the game so much, just always listening to my dad and my brother. It just stuck with me.

"I guess I'm just blessed from God. He gave me the talent, and I'm just using it."

It also may have something to do with her having played against boys when younger. She grew up around boys and joined them in playing everything from basketball to football.

From it, she learned plenty.

"I think that's where I got my handles and aggressiveness from," Loyd said. "I learned you can't be weak. You can't complain about anything. If you play with them, you got to be like them. You can't just go down with one shot. You got to be stronger."

It's that strength and ability that has nearly every college coach in the country calling after the 5-foot-10 sophomore guard. She's also considered one of the top class of 2012 players nationally by ESPN HoopGurlz.

"It's hot and heavy," said Konsewicz of her recruiting. "You name it, they're recruiting her."

Loyd isn't thinking about college now, though. Her plan is to enjoy being a teenager and to keep on improving her game.

From her freshman season (she averaged 19.5 points and 7.5 rebounds) to her sophomore campaign, Konsewicz has witnessed Loyd become a better player.

"She hasn't taken one step; she's taken some huge steps," he said. "She's gotten stronger. She's gotten a little taller. She's able to shoot over defenders now. Her defense is coming around. She's starting to get some tips and run-outs. That could be a big part of her game, defensively, once she starts feeling her way through that as well.

"I like her as a 1 [point guard], her ball-handling ability, she's able to get to the basket, just her shooting abilities. She's going to just keep getting better. She's a tough match up there."

Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at preps@espnchicago.com.