Lakeville North’s Banham is AP Player of Year

Published 9:18 am Wednesday, March 23, 2011

MINNEAPOLIS — Rachel Banham could’ve scored a lot more than she did over her career at Lakeville North.

Ah, but that’s not her game.

Unselfishness is the mark of a true point guard, and Banham’s ability to find her teammates with the ball along with her all-around skills helped her develop into one of the best prep players in the nation. The University of Minnesota recruit was named Tuesday as the Associated Press Player of the Year for girls basketball.

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“She finished 40 points short of 2,000 for her career, but she could’ve got that easily,” head coach Andy Berkvam said. “She’s more concerned about making her teammates around her better. Her career assist-to-turnover ratio is two-to-one, which is pretty phenomenal for a kid who handles the ball as much as she does.”

Joining Banham on AP’s all-state team are Rebekah Dahlman of Braham, Bethany Doolittle of Hill-Murray, Jessica Newman of Barnum and Michelle Young of Woodbury.

Banham averaged 17.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4 assists per game this season and led the Panthers to the Class 4A state semifinals, where they lost to Eden Prairie. Last year, Banham scored 25 points in the state championship game to help Lakeville North complete an undefeated season.

“Everyone knew about her, but I think that kind of put her on the map,” Berkvam said.

Banham was a fourth-grader in 2003 when Liz Podominick was a senior, wrapping up a stellar career that included two state titles before Lakeville split into two high schools. The connection and Berkvam encourages within the girls basketball community — each player on the varsity, junior varsity and “B” squad teams are assigned to interact with a youth team — there led to a meeting between Podominick and Banham that made quite the positive impression on the young Banham.

“I wanted to be like them. They were amazing, like the best players ever,” Banham said. “I used to think about me being on the court and going to state just like them.”

Now she’ll follow the lead of Podominick and another one of her role models, Lindsay Whalen, and join the Gophers in the fall.

“I knew immediately that I wanted to go there,” Banham said. “I just knew.”