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Drive to succeed extends Thibeaux's basketball journey

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Drive to succeed extends Thibeaux's basketball journey
  • Grayslake North’s Brittney Thibeaux (20) drives on Grayslake Central’s Morgan Dahlstrom during action this season. Thibeaux’s basketball future is at Minnesota State University Moorhead.

    Purchase Photo | Grayslake North’s Brittney Thibeaux (20) drives on Grayslake Central’s Morgan Dahlstrom during action this season. Thibeaux’s basketball future is at Minnesota State University Moorhead. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer


The car ride, which placed her not far from the Dakotas, took nine hours.

It's doubtful the sunroof was cracked open on the trip.

Story Continues Below

"It was a rough one, because the weather was bad," Grayslake North senior Brittney Thibeaux said of her recent drive to Moorhead, Minn. "There was snowfall. It was just terrible. You couldn't see anything, driving. It was just bad."

The drive home was sunny, figuratively speaking. Minnesota State University Moorhead offered Thibeaux a full-ride basketball scholarship.

"It made (the drive home) a lot better," she acknowledged with a laugh.

Truth is, in securing her ride, the 6-foot Thibeaux took a road much more difficult to navigate.

Three years ago, she had just finished up a season on Grayslake North's freshman B team. At 5 feet 9, she lacked more than height. She had started playing basketball just two years earlier, as a seventh-grader.

"I've always wanted (a scholarship)," Thibeaux said. "I just never thought I would get to this point."

Cue the Kevin Durant quote.

"Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard."

"That's my quote that I always think about," Thibeaux said.

Determination and work ethic help explain Thibeaux's rapid rise as a hoopster. As a first-year varsity player last season, the athletic forward earned all-conference and Daily Herald all-area honors in helping lead the Knights to their first Fox Valley Fox Division title. She duplicated all those accolades this season, averaging 12 points and 7.2 rebounds per game for the 20-game winners. She also posted 50 blocked shots and 64 steals.

In just two varsity seasons, she holds the program record for blocks in a game (7), season (54) and career (104). Her 747 career points and 428 rebounds both rank third in Knights history.

"From the time I took over the program the summer of Brittney's junior year, I have never witnessed a player improve so much in a short time as Brittney did," Grayslake North coach Nate Flannery said. "Brittney has the ability to do some things on the court that you just don't see very often. She made plays throughout the year on both ends of the court that most players simply can't make."

The daughter of Troy and Angela, Thibeaux is the second oldest of four children. Keep an eye out for younger sister Brandi, who will be a freshman at Grayslake North in the fall -- and probably won't play freshman B basketball.

"She's going to be great," Thibeaux said.

Thibeaux knows her future wouldn't include college basketball without her parents and siblings.

"It's really my family and their support," Thibeaux said. "My dad has been coaching me since I was in seventh grade. He really boosted my confidence."

Her transformation from a freshman B player to a girl who consistently brought her "A" game also wouldn't have been possible without her willingness to pay the price to become the best she can be.

"I was going to the gym every day and working out," Thibeaux said. "Then the summer going into my sophomore year, I played for the (Lake County Challengers) AAU team, and that just really helped me get stronger and faster. My skills improved dramatically after that."

Late last month, Thibeaux headed to Moorhead, where the weather might have made ours here feel balmy.

"Oh, it's a lot colder than here," Thibeaux said. "When I went for my visit, it was negative-18 (degrees). They said it was the coldest day of the year."

MSUM warmed her up with a scholarship offer. She drove back home, called Northwestern Ohio, which also offered her a full ride, and told the school she was choosing Minnesota State Moorhead. Indianapolis and Winona State also offered, she said.

Karla Nelson's MSUM Dragons finished 16-11 this season. The Division-II team has posted a winning record in each of Nelson's 14 seasons as head coach.

"It was just a great visit that really sold me," Thibeaux said.

Dreams come true. Brittney Thibeaux can sell that.

"There were always players that were better than me, and I just kept working hard," Thibeaux said. "And this is where I am."

She looks forward to many long, pleasant drives to Minnesota.

• Follow Joe on Twitter: @JoeAguilar64

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