The Gatorade Company, in collaboration with USA TODAY High School Sports, has announced Rolling Meadows junior guard Jackie Kemph as its Illinois Girls Basketball Player of the Year.
Kemph is the first player from Rolling Meadows to win the award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the court.
Her selection makes Kemph a finalist for Gatorade's national honor, which will be announced later this month.
Past national winners include Candace Parker (2001-02, Naperville Central), Diana Taurasi (1998-99 and 1999-00, Don Antonio Lugo HS, Calif.), and Maya Moore (2005-06 Collins Hill HS, Ga.).
Kemph, a 5-foot-6 junior point guard, averaged 20.0 points, 7.6 assists, 3.3 steals and 2.3 rebounds this season in leading the Mustangs (31-4) to the program's first Class 4A state championship game appearance under coach Ryan Kirkorsky.
The two-time Mid-Suburban East player of the year shot 47 percent from the field, 30 percent from 3-point range and 73 percent from the free throw line. In seven postseason games, she averaged 13.1 points and 6.6 assists. She also led Illinois Elite's 17U squad to the Amateur Athletic Union state title last May.
Kemph has maintained a 5.34 weighted GPA in the classroom and represents one of the state's top academic candidates in meeting the Gatorade Award's broad criteria. In addition to donating her time as a youth soccer and basketball instructor, she has volunteered locally on behalf of the Special Olympics and a youth literacy outreach program.
"She's fantastic," said Mary Fendley, who coaches one of Rolling Meadows' MSL East rivals, Hersey. "She's impossible to guard. She's very unselfish and always has a calm demeanor. I don't think I've ever coached or coached against a better point guard."
Kemph will begin her senior year of high school this fall.
The Gatorade Player of the Year program annually recognizes one winner in the District of Columbia and each of the 50 states that sanction high school football, girls volleyball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, baseball, softball, and boys and girls track & field, and awards one National Player of the Year in each sport. The selection process is administered by the Gatorade high school sports leadership team in partnership with USA TODAY High School Sports, which work with top sport-specific experts and a media advisory board of accomplished, veteran prep sports journalists to determine the state winners in each sport.
Kemph joins recent state winners Morgan Tuck (2011-12, Bolingbrook), Ariel Massengale (2010-11, Bolingbrook), Tricia Liston (2009-10 and 2008-09, Fenwick), Sarah Boothe (2007-08, Warren), and Brittany Johnson (2006--07, East Richland).