IHSA girls basketball: Rockford area's top 15 high school girls basketball players

Matt Trowbridge
Rockford Register Star

Girls basketball season begins Monday across Illinois.

Here are the Rockford area's top 15 players to watch (listed in no particular order) for the 2021-22 season:

Brooklyn Gray, Auburn

Auburn's Brooklyn Gray celebrates the team's 66-53 win over Hononegah on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020, at Auburn High School.

Gray, a 6-foot senior guard/forward, was named NIC-10 MVP as a junior, when she led the conference in scoring. She also averaged 5.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists. Gray is a four-year starter and as a sophomore she led Auburn to its only conference girls basketball title in school history.

Miyah Brown, Winnebago

Winnebago's Miyah Brown makes a jumper against Stillman Valley in the first quarter of their game at Winnebago High School on Wednesday, March 3, 2021, in Winnebago.

Brown, a 5-foot-10 senior guard/forward, was first-team all-state in Class 2A as a junior and second-team as a sophomore. She is the only first-team Associated Press All-Stater in history for a Winnebago program that has won 22 regional titles and reached state three times. Brown averaged 18 points, 8 rebounds, 4.2 steals and 2.4 assists as a junior. She has 1,317 career points and has signed with NCAA Division I Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky.

Last year's best:Rock River Valley High School Sports Awards girls basketball team named for 2021

Renee Rittmeyer, Winnebago

Winnebago's Renee Rittmeyer drives against Sterling's Bailey Adami in the first quarter at Winnebago High School on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021, in Winnebago.

Rittmeyer is a 5-10 senior four-year starting guard/forward. As a freshman, she helped Winnebago win its first sectional title in 27 years. Last year, she and Miyah Brown led ’Bago to a No. 3 finish in the final Associated Press poll. She averaged 10 points, eight rebounds, 3.2 steals and 3 assists as a junior.

Mikayala Huffine, Rockford Lutheran

Lutheran's Mikayla Huffine, 20, tries to maintain control as Byron's defense applies pressure during the Tigers' 53-47 win in Saturday's BNC quarterfinal matchup at Byron High School.

Huffine is a senior point guard and four-year starter. She averaged 16 points, 3 assists and 2 steals last spring, when she made first-team all-Big Northern. “She is an experienced and poised point guard who has definitely put in the work,” Lutheran coach Joni Carlson said.

Mya Davidson, Harlem

Harlem’s Mya Davidson shoots the ball against Hononegah on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, at Hononegah High School.

Davidson is a versatile 6-foot-3 senior who led Harlem to an 8-5 record last year playing everything from point guard to center. She has committed to  Lindenwood University, an NCAA Division II school in St. Charles, Missouri. She led Harlem in scoring (13.2 points) and rebounding as a junior.

The numbers:2021 NIC-10 girls basketball leaders

Sydney Donaldson, Guilford

Guilford's Sydney Donaldson shoots a free throw against Jefferson in the third quarter of their game at Guilford High School on Tuesday, March 2, 2021, in Rockford.

Donaldson, a junior guard, was sixth in the NIC-10 in scoring (13.7 points) as a sophomore after transferring from Hononegah. She also averaged 4.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.9 steals and ranked fourth int he league with 26 3-pointers in 15 games for a Guilford team that had its highest NIC-10 winning percentage in history with a 10-4 mark. She was named special mention All-State by the Champaign News-Gazette last year.

Ava Kultgen, Byron

Kultgen, a versatile 5-10 junior, averaged 18 points as a sophomore and was named All-Big Northern and special mention All-State by the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association. “Last year she drew a lot of double teams and passed out of them to her teammates,” Byron coach Eric Yerly said. “She is a great kid who is very humble and comes from a great family. All the success she has is because she works extremely hard.”

Lily Esparza, Boylan

Esparza, a 6-1 sophomore, didn’t play much as a freshman last spring but is expected to make a big impact this year. “She is a crafty finisher around the basket,” Guilford coach Mike Jamerson said. “She can also step out and shoot the 3. She’s the best post player in the Class of 2024 in our area and will make a huge impact.”

Karley Colson, Jefferson

Jefferson's Karley Colson drives against Guilford in the second quarter of their game at Guilford High School on Tuesday, March 2, 2021, in Rockford.

Colson led the NIC-10 in assists (5.6) and was second in scoring (17.1 points) as a junior. “Karley Colson can score the ball with the best of them,” Guilford coach Mike Jamerson said.

It will be harder this year. As a junior, Colson teamed with Camron Blank, perhaps the best player in the conference, to lead Jefferson (7-6) to its first winning record in 18 seasons. But Blank (15.8 points, 11.4 rebounds, 4.2 steals and 2.1 blocked shots) has graduated. Colson shot a low percentage last year in part because she and Blank were the J-Hawks’ only threats.

NIC-10 championship:Hononegah girls win 16th NIC-10 basketball title

Haley Warren, Hononegah

Hononegah’s Haley Warren steals a pass on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, at Hononegah High School.

The 5-8 senior guard/forward was runner-up for NIC-10 MVP last year, averaging 14.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.7 steals for the NIC-10 champions.

Emma Clark, Hononegah

Hononegah sophomore Emma Clark drives in for two of her game-high 20 points in a 57-36 win over Harlem Friday night. The Indians won their 16th NIC-10 girls basketball title.

Clark is a near twin with Warren as a 5-8 junior guard/forward for Hononegah. Clark averaged 13.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.5 steals last year. She was one of two sophomores who made first-team all-conference last year. “They are both explosive scorers,” Hononegah coach Jason Brunke said. “They both shot around 40% from 3-point range and are multi-dimensional scorers who can make plays going to the basket.”

Grace Groezinger, Lena-Winslow

Groezinger is a 6-foot sophomore forward who averaged 10 points and 8 rebounds as a freshman. She and 5-foot-10 senior forward Kalli Humphrey should transform a 9-7 Le-Win team last year into an NUIC title contender. “She can play inside and outside. She handles the ball well and shoots the 3,” Le-Win coach Dennis Huttenlocher said. “She has tremendous upside.”

Zhakyla Evans, Auburn

Auburn's Zhakyla Evans shoots a three-pointer on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021, at Harlem High School.

Evans, a 5-8 senior guard, is a four-year starter who averaged 10.2 points and made 23 3-pointers last year.

Cyrstal Sotello, Belvidere North

Sotello, a 5-7 senior forward, averaged 15.1 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.3 steals as a junior and was named first-team all-conference.

Lindsey Knuth, Guilford

Guilford's Lindsey Knuth goes up to the hoop against Jefferson in the third quarter of their game at Guilford High School on Tuesday, March 2, 2021, in Rockford.

Knuth, a 5-11 junior forward, averaged 7.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 0.8 blocked shots as a sophomore. She ranked fourth in the conference in blocked shots and seventh in rebounding for a team that had its best conference winning percentage in history at 10-3.

Matt Trowbridge: mtrowbridge@rrstar.com; @matttrowbridge