The Sun's 2013 Girls Basketball Players of the Year
Published: Friday, March 29, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 28, 2013 at 8:20 p.m.
Player of the Year: Brooksie McGraw, P.K. Yonge
The 6-foot-3 senior center averaged 13.0 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game in leading the Blue Wave to their eighth straight regional final. The Alabama signee scored in double figures in 22 of 28 games this season and had 14 double-doubles. McGraw, who was part of P.K. Yonge's state title teams in 2010 and 2012, had a season high 26 points against Santa Fe, 18 rebounds against Hawthorne and six blocks against Ocala West Port, all victories.
McGraw was just as busy off the court as she was on it. Besides being a standout basketball player and student body president, she was also elected homecoming queen in the fall. It often became overwhelming with sports and student government responsibilities “My senior year was really exciting and stressful,” McGraw said. “But now everything is calming down. My next goal is to keep working out and walk across that stage (for graduation).” She will visit Tuscaloosa on May 26, then graduate from P.K. Yonge on May 31.
“I have a countdown on my phone that tells me how many days I have left (before moving to Alabama). I'm pretty scared. I've talked to (assistant) coach (Clarissa) Garcia, trying to build chemistry with my teammates and let them know I'm ready and excited to come and work. This should be an awesome year. They are rebuilding their program, too.” — Brooksie McGraw
Player of the Year: Jessica Thomas, Buchholz
This has been a magical year for the senior guard, the area's first winner of the prestigious Florida Dairy Farmers' Miss Basketball award, which recognizes the top player of the year in the state. In the competition, Thomas beat out three players recognized as McDonald's All-Americans, even though surprisingly she was not. But what has meant more to the Miami signee than individual accolades was what happened in Lakeland on Feb. 23 when the Bobcats captured their first state championship, beating Davie Nova 63-49 for the Class 7A crown. And Thomas led the way, scoring 15 points in one stretch to jump-start a lethargic start by Buchholz, and finished with 26 as the Bobcats (28-4) ended two straight years of frustration in the state semifinals. Thomas, who averaged 30 points, seven assists and five steals a game this season, scored 38 in the state semifinal win over Tampa Freedom (79-73), and had 47 in an 84-79 overtime win at Viera in the regional finals. In that game, down three, Thomas was fouled with 2.1 seconds left during a 3-point attempt. She hit all three free throws to force OT, and the Bobcats survived for their third straight trip to Lakeland.
The baby sister to former Buchholz and Miami great wide receiver Lamar Thomas, Jessica was the only returning starter from last year's final four team. She signed with Miami before the start of the season. A first-team all-area performer on the basketball court three straight years, she was also a first team all-area selection in golf for two of the past three years and had Buchholz's low round at state.
“The main goal was to get that state title. I didn't expect all these other awards to be coming to me while working for that. I knew we had talent that no one knew about. There have been times when I have done some amazing things, but it really hasn't been seen. I didn't have to do that with the team I had last year. This year I had to contribute a lot more.” — Jessica Thomas