This morning, the Gatorade Player of the Year award for girls basketball was officially announced for all 50 states. For Massachusetts, Braintree senior guard Ashley Russell was given the honor for the second straight season.
Here are the Gatorade Player of the Year winners in girls basketball for the five other New England states:
CONNECTICUT: KIAH GILLESPIE, CAPITAL PREP
The 6-foot-2 senior forward and guard had led the Trailblazers to a 22-1 record and a berth in the Class L quarterfinals at the time of her selection. The state’s returning Gatorade Girls Basketball Player of the Year, Gillespie was averaging 31.3 points, 15.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.3 blocks per contest through 23 games. A three-time First Team All-State selection, she was also chosen to play in both the McDonald’s All-American Game and the Jordan Brand Classic. Gillespie has led her team to a No. 16 ranking in the USA TODAY’s Super 25 and was named to the USA TODAY’s All-USA Connecticut First Team.
Gillespie has maintained a 3.72 GPA in the classroom. She has volunteered locally on behalf of food-donation drives, community clean-up initiatives and a homeless shelter.
“I can’t think of anyone who can even come close to her in ability and versatility on the basketball court,” said Ann Folan, head coach at Parish Hill High. “She’s fundamentally sound on defense and offensively, she’s a powerhouse.”
Gillespie has signed a National Letter of Intent to play basketball on scholarship at the University of Maryland this fall.
RHODE ISLAND: SARAH MIDDLETON, BARRINGTON
The 5-foot-2 senior point guard averaged 16.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.8 steals and 3.4 assists per game this past season, leading the Eagles (24-2) to the Open State Tournament quarterfinals. Middleton collected 15 points, nine rebounds, six assists and six steals in Barrington’s 48-37 win over Bay View Academy in the Division I State Tournament championship game, earning Tournament MVP honors for a second straight year.
Middleton has maintained a B average in the classroom and represents one of the state’s top academic candidates in meeting the Gatorade award’s broad criteria. She has volunteered locally as a middle school math tutor, at Providence-area food banks and has donated her time as part of multiple community-service initiatives in association with the Barrington High Interact Club.
“Sarah Middleton is the best player in Rhode Island for what she brings to her team on and off the court,” said Amanda Varone, head coach of South Kingstown High. “She is Barrington’s floor leader, can score almost at will and is one of the best ball handlers I’ve encountered.”
Middleton has verbally committed to attend East Stroudsburg State College in Pennsylvania, where she will play basketball beginning this fall.
NEW HAMPSHIRE: MADDY SPRINGFIELD, CONANT
The 5-foot-11 junior guard led the Orioles to a 25-0 record and the Division III state title this past season. Springfield averaged 20.1 points, 9.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 3.3 steals per game, including 11 points, 11 rebounds, five steals and two blocks in the state championship game. A First Team All-State selection as a freshman at Conant, she spent her sophomore year at Marianapolis Prep in Connecticut, earning All-Star honors from the New England Prep School Athletic Council.
Springfield has maintained an A average in the classroom. A member of the Conant High student council, she has volunteered locally with an elementary school literacy-outreach program, as a peer mentor and as a youth basketball coach.
“Maddy Springfield is incredibly tough to play against because she has so many different weapons in her game,” said Curt Dutilley, head coach of Monadnock Regional High. “She has great point guard abilities in a forward’s body which makes her so tough to defend because she plays in so many different areas of the floor.”
Springfield has verbally committed to attend the College of the Holy Cross, where she will play basketball beginning in the fall of 2016.
MAINE: NIA IRVING, LAWRENCE
The 6-foot junior center led the Bulldogs to a 21-1 record and the Class A state title this past season. Irving averaged 22.5 points and 14 rebounds while shooting 52.8 percent from inside the arc. The 2014 Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Player of the Year, she scored 27 points and pulled down seven rebounds in Fairfield’s title-clinching, 50-43 win over Thornton Academy. She connected on 77.8 percent of her free throws this winter.
Irving has maintained a 98.3 average in the classroom. A member of the National Honor Society, she has volunteered locally on behalf of a homeless shelter, as a peer tutor and as a youth basketball coach.
“Nia Irving is a gifted basketball player,” said Gavin Kane, head coach at Mt. Blue High. “When you combine her tremendous work ethic with her skill set, you can understand why she is considered by many as the top player in the state. She is physically very strong and a nightmare matchup for other teams.”
Irving will begin her senior year of high school this fall.
VERMONT: LAUREL JAUNICH, CHAMPLAIN VALLEY UNION
The 6-foot-1 junior forward led the Redhawks to a 24-0 record and their third consecutive Division 1 state title this past season. Jaunich averaged 15.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game. A First Team All-Metro selection and a Second Team Burlington Free Press All-State honoree, she has helped Champlain Valley Union to 71 consecutive victories over the past three seasons.
Jaunich has maintained a 4.02 GPA in the classroom. She has volunteered locally on behalf of the Salvation Army, youth basketball camps and her school’s Environmental Action Club.
“Jaunich runs the floor very well, she’s a great finisher and she’s just a tremendous defensive player,” said Bert Berthiaume, head coach at Bellows Free Academy-St. Albans. “She’s a very tough player to match up with.”
Jaunich will begin her senior year of high school this fall.