The resurgence of the Shelbyville girls basketball program has plenty to do with the development of junior guard Ava Wilson.
Sixteen games into the 2022-2023 season, Wilson is averaging 18.9 points per game – a big jump from 7.7 as a sophomore and 5.8 as a freshman.
In fact, her 303 total points this season nearly matches her output from her first two seasons (309).
“She is a quiet kid,” said Shelbyville head coach Becca Hoefler. “She won’t talk about herself. She won’t brag. I don’t think she talked for the first two years she was here. It took this year for her to blossom.”
Wilson credits success to her maturity as a player in a program that needs her to flourish.
“I feel like we’ve been working more as a team and the team has been surrounding me and Kylee (Edwards), and I’ve been able to get to the basket more than I have in the other years. I feel more confident in doing it,” she said. “Before, I felt like I’m just a sophomore or a freshman and I can’t put myself out there and make mistakes, then it would be my fault because I was younger.”
Edwards and Wilson are the tip of the Shelbyville sword – 11-5 with six regular-season games left. Edwards just recently became Shelbyville’s career scoring leader while averaging nearly 22 ppg this season while Wilson follows closely behind giving the Golden Bears a dynamic 1-2 offensive punch.
Defensively, the senior and junior rotate stints at the top of a 1-3-1 trap that has been so effective this season. The duo combined are averaging eight steals per game – with many leading to easy fast-break points.
“I think Ava has taken ownership of the team. She feels like it’s her team now,” said Hoefler. “In years previous, I think she felt it was a senior’s or a junior’s or Kylee’s team. Now that her and Kylee have played together for the last couple of years, I feel like it’s co-ownership of their team together. She has taken ownership over our wins and our losses. She is making sure she is one of the best on the court.”
Wilson (photo) gets the bulk of her points in the lane. She is determined to attack the rim and finish, she has made over 100 field goals this season inside the 3-point line, and work her way to the free-throw line where she hits nearly 9 of every 10 taken.
“During AAU (season) I worked a lot on driving,” said Wilson of her increased production. “And I did a lot of shooting outside. Usually in AAU, they would hold me to the drive so I would be shooting a lot more. So I’ve been working on finishing a lot because I’ve been struggling hitting layups.”
Recently, Hoefler has been able to preview what the Golden Bears will look like in 2023-2024 when Edwards and her more than 1,400 career points will be gone. The senior took a hard fall in Shelbyville’s semifinal win over South Central (Union Mills) on Dec. 22 in the Valparaiso Tournament and missed the championship game.
Wilson never flinched even as Class 4A, No. 10 Valparaiso was next up. She scored a career-high 28 points in the championship game loss.
“Everyone knows that it’s me and Kylee, so without Kylee I felt like I had to step it up and everyone was helping me, setting screens because they know if I can get a lane to the basket I will finish,” said Wilson. “And I kept hitting shots. We were working well as a team even without Kylee.”
Edwards was back in the lineup Tuesday with a large brace on her knee which may accompany her the rest of the season. Wilson again was dynamic at Franklin Central, scoring 25 points to lead the Golden Bears to their 11th win of the season.
“(Valparaiso) was impressive especially with the personnel we had on the court because she was our main player,” said Hoefler. “Even to continue to score on Valpo, who is very strong defensively, was impressive.
“She has been laser focused in recently. You can tell she is feeling confident in her shot and her driving ability. We do a lot of plays through her now.”
Hoefler knows Wilson will be a focal point of defensive scouting reports in the coming weeks as the Golden Bears continue to build toward a season ending with a winning record.
“We have a big stretch coming up with Yorktown, Rushville, Mt. Vernon and Whiteland,” said Hoefler. “I know (Ava) will be heavily guarded over the next couple of games, especially at Rushville, because Rushville has a pretty intense defense. I know she will be a main focus.
“Hopefully, Kylee will be able to rest and get back to it and we will have both our leading scorers back strong.”
Off the court, Wilson, one of the best academically in her graduating class, has focused in on playing college basketball. Her success this season should help draw interest as she starts taking campus visits in the spring.
“I want to play if I can find a place,” said Wilson. “I don’t know how I could keep going without playing basketball.”
“She is so academically strong. For her, it’s what college is going to be a good fit with the academics,” said Hoefler. “Her career (choice) will be a big part of it. We’re hoping this offseason, the offers will start coming in.”
Until then, Wilson is focused on leading the Golden Bears to a strong finish which would result in the program’s first winning season since 2016.
“We have to stay consistent like we were in the beginning of the year,” she said. “We were really working as a team. Midseason, we started getting away from that and taking the first shot we would get.
“If we play as a team, we are really good.”
Steve Bush photos
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