Brea Beal remembers well those first newspaper and television interviews when she was a seventh grade phenom at Edison Junior High.
"I could barely speak publicly let alone think about all these honors," Beal said. "This is another blessing."
Fast forward to Wednesday afternoon and Beal stepped into yet another basketball atmosphere, moving herself right next to prep, college, WNBA and U.S. Olympics standout Candace Parker as just the second female to be voted as Illinois' Ms. Basketball for a third time.
And Beal won for the third time in style. She captured 51 of the 99 first-place votes and finished with 322 points (152 more than second-place Anaya Peoples of Danville Schlarman). And, she wins the award on the same day she played in the prestigious McDonald's All-American Games in Atlanta.
Wethersfield senior Brittney Litton garnered one point in the voting.
Belleville West senior EJ Liddell captured 95 of the 114 first-place ballots to win Mr. Basketball for his second straight year. Moline's Deonte Billups had six points and Geneseo's Isaiah Rivera had four points.
"It is perfect, winning this for the third time and having it happen when I'm with all there amazing All-American players," Beal said just hours before the girls' game tipped off on Wednesday. "There is no more stressing about anything, I'm just enjoying the moment."
Beal had her best season in four for the Rocks, averaging 24.8 points, 13.2 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 3.4 steals and 3.3 blocks per game as the Rocks reached the Class 4A super-sectional with a 30-2 record.
Ms. Basketball becomes one of the final last moments as a Rock with the Jordan Brand All-American Games in Las Vegas late next month.
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She also already has been named Illinois Gatorade Player of the Year for a third time, Associated Press and IBC first-team All-Staters, a third-team All-American from Jersey Mike's Naismith and a first-team All-American from the Women's Basketball Coaches Association.
Through all of it, many who watched Beal play as a prep believe she made it look easy. It was far from that.
"Not at all, it was never easy," she said. "There is a lot of sacrifice the whole time."
"It starts out with surrounding yourself with the right people, and that starts with my dad (Kevin Beal). When I look at him after every one of these awards, I see his face and he's saying 'You did the work and now you are getting the rewards.' But we know there is more to do."
As much as the awards and honors are something she can touch and see, Beal believes this week is the true validation of her high-school career. But she knows that all changes soon.
"Being here at practice and hanging out with 23 other All-Americans proves to me that I belong," she said. "Now, it is exciting that I have to go back and start all over again at South Carolina."
When Beal takes that next step she knows that she has left a legacy at Rock Island for the now, and the future. She has spend a lot of time with youngsters in the district, and she also spent this past season mentoring Rocky freshman guard Imari McDuffy.
"Definitely, it means a lot to realize I have made a difference with so many little ones who want to play basketball," she said. "I have always tried to give kids words of advice. I think the numbers of kids wanting to play in the Rock Island program are going to keep growing.
"I will always keep talking a lot with Imari. It was fun working with her, and I want to see her continue to grow. She always knows she can call me. I think those girls coming back next year, as long as they continue to work hard, will surprise a lot of people."