Sloan becomes focal point in paint
Maine East's Shaylee Sloan goes for a basket against St. Viator during their game on Dec. 27 in Arlington Heights. | Dan Luedert~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 2, 2013 6:31AM
PARK RIDGE — There have been times this season when Maine East junior Maria Protic watches junior center Shaylee Sloan in amazement.
Not only has Sloan progressed into the Blue Demons’ best player this season — the Niles resident has regularly scored in double figures while simultaneously excelling as a leader — she seems to have an uncanny ability to judge where a rebound is going to be before it arrives.
“Underneath the basket, she’s probably one of he most aggressive girls in our conference,” Protic said. “The ball is like a magnet to her. The rebound goes up and she’s always in the right spot at the right time.
“She also uses her body well. She’s bigger than a lot of the girls, so she can push them out of the way and is able to just clear her area to get the ball.”
Sloan’s ability to rebound against girls who are taller or possess a better vertical leap has been one vital piece in Maine East’s ascent in the CSL North’s standings this season. The Blue Demons (10-12 as of Monday) were tied with Maine West for second in the division at 4-3 coming into the week.
Another reason for Maine East’s success has been Sloan’s scoring.
She registered 22 points in the Blue Demons’ 54-46 victory over Glenbrook North on Jan. 10.
Sloan’s scoring is the result of offensive rebounding and learning to play at her own pace.
Last year, Sloan would collect a rebound or receive an entry pass into the post and “just throw the ball up,” she said. This year, after a summer spent playing AAU basketball on Big Shots, the junior center is more comfortable in the paint. She’s taking her time to shoot and not fading away.
“I think the kids look at her as our force underneath,” Maine East coach Karol Hanusiak said. “She’s the one that, when she gets going, the flow of the game gets going and everyone else feeds off of her. And let’s be honest, if your big kid is getting it done underneath, they’re going to have to collapse on her and that’s going to open things up.”
The last phase of Sloan’s evolution into Maine East’s best player has involved leadership. Sometimes, according to Hanusiak, Sloan will be vocal in practice and in motivating her teammates. In other instances, she puts her head down and leads by example.
The difference in styles largely depends on the situation, Sloan said. It’s something she assesses like a rebound — she sees a situation developing and then quickly figures out how to control it.
“If they need help, I’m always there,” Sloan said. “I know everybody, so if I see that they’re off, I can just pull them to the side, talk to them and encourage them. They all know they can come to me when they do have problems, on and off the court.”