As seniors, Warren's Hughes and Dickson ruled
They were so good together they gave reason to amend an old basketball strategy.
There were "The Jordan Rules" way back when.
This winter in Lake County, there were "The Jordyn and Kay Rules." That's what Warren girls basketball coach John Stanczykiewicz cleverly called it.
Every time the Blue Devils took the court this season, they knew opponents had a game plan to try to limit the production of senior guards Jordyn Hughes and Kaylen Dickson.
Said Stanczykiewicz: "Was it going to be a triangle-and-two? Was it going to be a box-and-one on Jordyn? Was it going to be no help off Jordyn and Kay and step off everyone else on the floor and play, in theory, what is a three-person zone and take away the middle? Are they going to take away Jordyn's perimeter game and take the inside away from Kay?"
If opponents had fun strategizing against Warren, the sharpshooting Hughes and the highflying Dickson had more fun finding ways to finish at the offensive end and, ultimately, win games for the Blue Devils.
Signed to play Division-I basketball before the start of the season, Hughes (Eastern Illinois University) and Dickson (Wake Forest University) embraced the target on their back.
"That was our challenge," Dickson said. "The same thing happened last year, and I think we were less successful with that last year. This year, we came in experienced, seasoned."
The D-I duo didn't disappoint. Jordyn and Kay ruled.
Warren rang up 25 wins for the second year in a row, captured the North Suburban Conference championship outright, won the Class 4A Buffalo Grove regional title and advanced to the Fremd sectional final. After hiking their career point totals to 1,661 and 1,407, respectively, Hughes and Dickson are co-captains of the Daily Herald Lake County all-area team.
"There was no secret who we were," Stanczykiewicz said. "There was no secret how good those kids were. Every time we played a game, everyone knew it was, 'Stop Jordyn. Stop Kay.' For them to be able to do what they did over the course of a season, I think really speaks volumes to their talent and ability."
Stanczykiewicz saw the talent and ability when the two were freshmen. He promoted both to the varsity, with Hughes becoming an instant starter and Dickson getting minutes coming off the bench. They had arrived from rival middle schools. Hughes was a good player at Woodland. Dickson was an inexperienced player at Viking.
"I do remember those rivalry games," Hughes said. "Those were pretty big games for our middle-school basketball team."
"I had just started playing (basketball) so I wasn't very good," Dickson said. "It was about just being on the team, more than anything."
Hughes made the all-area and all-conference teams as a freshman, and then sophomore year both she and Dickson started to complement each other on the court. Warren won 17 games, four more than the previous season. Last season, Hughes and Dickson led the Blue Devils to a 25-win campaign that ended too soon, in the regional final on their home court to Lake Forest.
They learned from it. While Hughes was putting up nearly 15 points per game and distributing the ball this season, Dickson was scoring at a slightly higher clip, while also proving to be a game-changer with her ability to rebound the ball, block shots and come up with steals.
"I admire how athletic she is," Hughes said of Dickson. "She jumps right out of the gym. She won almost every single tip this year. Sometimes I'd laugh during the game because she has these crazy moves and no one could defend her."
Warren opened the state tournament with wins over Mundelein, Prospect and Grayslake Central, as Hughes dropped in 21, 19 and 19 points, respectively.
"She's always been a great shooter," Dickson said. "I know she works hard on her shooting."
Dickson scored 22 points against Prospect in the regional final. If it wasn't her best game, it might have been second to the 28-point, 12-rebound performance she turned in against Stevenson in January. She also scored a career-high 31 points in a loss to Lakes.
"We're different types of guards," Hughes said. "You just have to navigate in the game. Sometimes we both could just hit (shots), and those were really fun nights."
While Warren relied on its two leaders night in and night out, both Hughes and Dickson say they couldn't have achieved what they did, individually and as a team, without their teammates.
"Our teammates did an amazing job during practice guarding us," Hughes said. "Every time we'd go live, it was like, 'No help off Kay. No help off Jordyn.' We definitely worked extremely hard for our shots in practice, sometimes even harder than we did in games."
"Our bench players who saw little or no time, they made us better," Dickson said. "They were important to us. Without them, I don't think we would be as good as we are."
In the end, two talented players learned to play with each other. They grew as teammates and as friends, and made sacrifices to benefit the team.
"I think they both gave up a little this season," Stanczykiewicz said, "to get a lot."