Annawan junior Celina VanHyfte might be the one with the all-state accolades, but she knows who is responsible for helping her get there.
VanHyfte’s mother, Val, has been coaching her since she picked up a basketball and is an assistant for the Bravettes. A former post player herself, she has honed her daughter’s game to an all-state level.
“If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be the post player I am today,” Celina said. “I wouldn’t be able to do a single move without her, to be honest.”
The former Val Wancket had an outstanding high school career before graduating from Atkinson in 1987. She still is No. 17 all-time on the Illinois girls scoring list with 2,644 points and No. 7 all-time in rebounds with 1,606.
She holds the No. 15 mark for rebounds in a season with 455 and is No. 8 for rebounds in a game with 32 vs. Wyanet on Jan. 28, 1985.
“Basketball has been my mom’s life forever,” Celina said. “She’s never going to stop being part of that. She always wants me to improve. We’ll go back home and talk about stuff after games, practices about what I should do.”
Celina said her mom is harder on her than on her teammates, but knows that expectations are higher as the assistant’s daughter. While Val doesn’t do a lot of yelling, Celina said she does catch her mother giving exasperated looks as she heads down the court after messing up a play.
Last season, Celina averaged 22.6 points, 12.7 rebounds, 2.7 blocks and 2.5 steals for a 30-2 Elite Eight team. This year, Annawan is 24-2 and VanHyfte is once again leading the Bravettes in scoring at 22.4 points per game.
For all of the gaudy numbers that VanHyfte puts up, there is one trait that Bravettes coach Jason Burkewicz feels that sets her apart.
“She’s not afraid of any team we go up against, and that’s a strong point of hers that really travels through the team,” Burkewicz said. “The girls really look at her and know there is no fear in her. That’s something we’ve been trying to instill in our program.”
VanHyfte also was an all-state selection in softball last season.
When VanHyfte was a freshman, Burkewicz assigned one of the older players to help her understand schemes and where she needed to be on the floor. Today, it’s the junior who is telling others what needs to be done.
“That’s true of a lot of freshmen,” Burkewicz said. “There was a lot of raw scoring talent. I threw in two different plays for her a couple of days ago, reviewed it yesterday and I see her being real crisp with it. There’s a big difference from a couple years ago and shows how she’s matured as a player, and she’s the one giving help.”
Celina’s younger sister, Morgan, is a freshman for Annawan. While she plays guard instead of the post, Val pushes her every bit as hard.
“It’s what moms do,” Morgan said. “They want you to do the best that you can do. So if you’re doing something half, she’ll make you do it and push you harder.”
Burkewicz said Morgan had her share of freshman growing pains but has more responsibility than Celina did at the same age. Morgan said playing with her sister on the varsity level isn’t that big of a change for her.
“It’s basically the same,” Morgan said. “Even in eighth grade and junior high I would come home and play with Celina. She’s a great athlete. She’s good competition. She’s as good as it gets.”