2012-13 All-County Basketball: West Rowan’s Steele girls player of year
By Ryan Bisesi
MOUNT ULLA — It wasn’t a tangible statistic, but the direction Shay Steele provided a freshman with in the fourth quarter of the North Piedmont Conference championship game most impressed coach Todd McNeely.
After guard Khalia Hall nearly committed her fourth foul, Steele ran to her and reminded her of just how important she was to the team. Fouls couldn’t be handed out in a game this important.
“That shows her leadership,” McNeely said. “That was out of character for her as far as being vocal but she’s a leader for us.”
The message was supplemental in an already impressive 31-point effort that helped West win the NPC tournament crown. Throughout the year, Steele displayed the intangibles that made her worthy of the Rowan County Player of the Year.
“I knew this year was going to be different,” Steele said. “But I didn’t expect us to do what we did.”
The Falcons would win that one, along with a bunch of others in a memorable 24-3 season that included a 15-0 start and a Moir Christmas Classic championship.
“Without Shay we don’t do a lot of what we did this year,” McNeely said. “She was that glue that could get a big bucket or big block for you.”
Alongside all-county player Alison Sobataka and dynamic guard Nycieko Dixon, Steele was the focal point of the Falcon offense. Steele scored a career-high 38 points against Statesville and averaged 20.9 points a game. The 1000-point barrier was broken in December against North Rowan.
Teams focused on Steele defensively with the senior having to fight off double teams most nights. Her reach and athleticism made it possible. Her speed makes her a factor on the state level in the 400 and 200-meter dashes and the wingspan gives her multiple blocks and rebounds every game.
“It made me work harder to prove I can take two people guarding me,” Steele said. “I also had faith in my teammates knowing I’m not the only scorer.”
Steele moved from Pittsburgh with her family in sixth grade and hit a growth spurt around the same time. It didn’t stop until she hit 6-foot-2.
“When I moved here, it seemed like I was taller than everybody,” Steele said. “Up north, I really wasn’t. Either I got taller or everyone else got smaller.”
That’s come in handy on the court, where Steele has been a three-time all-county player. Many opposing area coaches are glad to see Steele graduate. She averaged 11.5 rebounds, 7 blocks and four steals a game as a junior. Her points per game average went up each season, from 8.6 as a freshman to 13.3 as a sophomore to 16.6 as a junior.
“I’m really big on defense,” Steele said. “The fact that I can go and defend a guard is something that’s different.”
Steele, a Morehead State signee, wants to continue working around those shorter than her. She likes children and wants to be a pediatric nurse. On the court, the left-hander will continue to work on her move to the right as well as her jump shot.
She’ll try to continue to make statements and break the mold like West did this year.
“Breaking barriers,” said Steele of her four years at West. “Making a name for West Rowan girls’ basketball.”