For somebody who started playing organized basketball five years ago, Brandi Henton has come a long way.
This year, Henton, a Modesto Christian High junior, took her team to the cusp of a state championship. She averaged 15.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.9 steals and 2.8 assists for a Crusaders team that lost in the CIF State Division IV title game.
For her efforts, Henton has been named The Bee's 2009 Girls Basketball Player of the Year.
Henton was a whirling dervish in the Modesto Christian backcourt. She played a physical style, driving inside for points while still showing range from beyond the 3-point line. She may have been even more valuable on defense, where she disrupted her opponent's flow on nearly every possession.
"She was the key to our defense," MC coach Robb Spencer said. "But also, maybe more than anybody else, she sacrificed her game for the good of the team.
"She played at point guard because she was the best we had. If she were at the 2-guard, she might have averaged 30 points a game."
Henton's athletic journey began in the third grade, when she started winning races at track meets. For four consecutive year, she advanced to the Junior Olympics. But basketball came calling soon after that.
"I was always hanging out with my older brother Dabrail and the fellas," Brandi Henton said. "And they were always into basketball. I was all about track and they were all about basketball."
Her love of track began to fade when she picked up a basketball.
"I loved track, but it was more of an individual thing," Henton said. "When I started playing basketball, I loved the team aspect. Plus, I was still running."
Running was about all she was good at in the beginning.
"I could play defense and I could pass the ball, but that was it," Henton said with a laugh.
Spencer said he has game film of her that first year, missing left-handed layups.
She began to take off her freshman year. She was on the MC freshman team; there were only a handful of players, so everybody got a lot of playing time.
"I kept hearing I had potential," Henton said. "But I was mainly playing basketball because it was just something to do."
She improved markedly during her freshman year.
"It was just - snap - I got it," she said.
She's still learning the game, but her natural talent helps keep her on top.
"Some skills, like dribbling, just seemed to come naturally," she said. "Now I play all the time. I'm learning every time I'm out there.
"It's a sport I've really grown to love."
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