Monday, December 30, 2013

Taylor Rooks of Gill St. Bernard's surpasses 2,000 career points

Taylor Rooks of Gill St. Bernard's scored her 2,000th career point on Sunday against St. John Vianney

Chris Ryan,, December 30, 2013

Gill St. Bernard’s senior Taylor Rooks scored her 2,000th career point on Sunday, adding another milestone to an already impressive resume.
The Stanford bound senior and reigning Star Ledger state player of the year entered Sunday’s game against St. John Vianney 16 points shy of the mark, and she reached it in the third quarter.
Like she had done countless times before, Rooks powered her way to the rim, fighting through a defender to convert the layup and draw the foul. Rooks went to the free throw line and sunk the shot to eclipse the 2,000-point mark.
“It’s great, I enjoyed the moment. Like you said, not many people get the opportunity to score 2,000 points, let alone 1,000 points,” Rooks said. “But it’s definitely nice to get past it, and it’s great in the moment."
Rooks’ achievement came at a crucial moment for Gill St. Bernard’s, as her 3-point play capped a 9-0 run that gave the team its biggest lead of the game at 38-31.
While Gill St. Bernard’s ultimately fell in overtime, 63-57, Rooks finished with a game-high 27 points, and her 11 points in the fourth quarter and overtime powered the Gill St. Bernard’s offense down the stretch.
With Rooks reaching another personal milestone, Gill St. Bernard’s coach Josuf Dema said she brings much more value than just her point totals.
“You almost become like a fan at times, you watch her drive the lane and make easy buckets, and usually at this level, you need to work for everything you have. And she works,” Dema said. “It’s impressive, she does so much that helps the team, and she really made a point this year to look for her teammates a little more."
Her career total now sits at 2,011 points, including 1,490 in two-plus seasons at Gill St. Bernard’s. Rooks will have the chance to break the school’s career scoring record of 1,864. Through five games this season, Rooks is averaging 24.0 points per game.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Natrona's Kaylee Johnson a star to see

Lew Freedman,, December 26, 2013

The three-second-long play that was its own highlight reel, the one that any basketball fan would desire to watch on film more than "Hoosiers" encompassed several of Kaylee Johnson's extraordinary hoop talents.
First the 6-foot-2 Natrona center blocked a Billings Senior player's shot. Then, with the same long and wiry arms that intimidate shorter opponents on defense, she batted the ball to herself. Then Johnson scooped up the loose ball, dribbled to the basket and threw in a lay-up.
Announcer Doris Burke would have needed throat surgery after reacting to the play. Candace Parker would have been jealous.
If Casper is off-Broadway for the finest girls high school basketball player in Wyoming, it would be wise to invest in tickets to see the show now. Once Johnson boards the plane for the West Coast where she has determined she will further her education at Stanford University next fall the only glimpses of her game in these parts will be if she returns for vacation and shoots around in the driveway.
Or, as Fillies coach Doug Diehl put it about her Wyoming fans watching Johnson shoot, dribble, rebound, or block shots again -- all of which she does with consummate smoothness -- "Except on TV."
Stanford, a perennial power coached by the legendary Tara Vanderveer, inked Johnson to a scholarship and that alone is a compliment. It will be possible to see Johnson play on television with Stanford, and although she is only a 7-0 record into her high school senior season, someday it also may be possible to watch her perform her magic on TV in the WNBA.
Johnson is very skilled at just about every aspect of the game, and she is friendly and polite. That's off the court. On it, she has an assassin's instinct, the you-can't-stop-me confidence that thrusts daggers into opponents' hearts. Johnson doesn't wish to offend her teammates by acting as a one-woman team, but she recognizes when it is appropriate to flip the switch and take over a game.
That moment arrived -- not specifically requested by Diehl -- but in Johnson's head, after the Fillies trailed Billings Senior 26-25 at halftime in Natrona's last game before the Christmas break. Johnson glanced at the scoreboard, noted that the usually well-balanced Fillies were not shooting well, and figuratively hoisted the team onto her slender, but firm shoulders.
Johnson wears her dark hair tied up in a bun and held in place by a thick, black headband. Over the eight minutes each of the third and fourth quarters Johnson mixed it up on the boards, used her long arms to discourage Broncs players from attempting shots in her vicinity, made short jumpers and dazzled with clever, slithering moves to the hoop for lay-ups. Johnson was the unruffled go-to-gal on offense and the goalie-like last line of protection on defense.
It was a pretty impressive stretch of exercise, but her hair never budged on the way to a 32-point scoring day.
Johnson said it was not until after 8th grade when basketball became her true sport of choice. Diehl played a role in her ditching volleyball by basically telling Johnson she could become a very special basketball player and get a free education out of it.
"I've been doing this a long time," said Diehl, who has coached kids since 1989. "I've never had anyone with the mental toughness and the work ethic she brings. She has a great motor that keeps her going. If you ever want to be impressed with the lady, you should see her in the weight room squatting 225 three times."
Diehl knows an all-state player when he sees one, but he considers Johnson to be better than the typical all-state star.
"She's in a different world," Diehl said. "I can have a great high school athlete, but she is an elite athlete."
One humorous aspect of Johnson's recruitment by Stanford is that it will prevent her from thinking she is one of a kind. That's because Stanford already has a Kailee Johnson on the squad. Really. The other Johnson, a 6-3 freshman, is from Portland, Oregon.
"What are the chances?" Casper's Johnson said with a laugh. "I thought, 'How are they going to do the jerseys?' It's one letter different."
Yes, Johnson joked, that's why Vanderveer recruited her, just because her name is Kaylee Johnson. Maybe Vanderveer was just being smart in concluding there is no such thing as too much Kaylee Johnson or too many Kal(i)ee Johnsons.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Kaylee helps Natrona County take down visiting Sheridan

Kaylee Johnson puts a shot up under pressure by a Sheridan's player as Natrona County faced the Lady Broncs on Friday, Dec. 13, 2013, at Natrona County High School in Casper, Wyo. The Fillies topped Sheridan 62-51.

Sisco Molino,, December 13, 2013

Natrona County struggled at times during its game against 4A Sheridan on Friday night -- and that's expected at the beginning of the season. But it was the second-half adjustments on defense that led the Fillies to a 62-51 victory.

Kaylee Johnson was in double figures with 13 points and flirted with a triple-double, tallying nine rebounds and eight blocks while also dishing out four assists.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Brittany McPhee is trying to win a state title at Mount Rainier before moving on to Stanford

Brittany McPhee, senior forward and two-time Gatorade state player of the year at Mount Rainier High School in Des Moines, has committed to play for Stanford next year.

Sandy Ringer,, December 10, 2013

Mount Rainier basketball star Brittany McPhee will take her game to Stanford next fall. But first, she’s hoping to help the Rams win a state title after two narrow semifinal losses.

Every step along the rain-soaked run is a reminder.
“You’re doing this for a reason,” she tells herself.“You’re doing this to get better.”
Because as good of a basketball player as Brittany McPhee is — and the 6-footer who will play at Stanford is widely considered the best in the state — she knows there is always room for improvement.
Running the extra miles, lifting the extra weights, shooting the extra shots — they’ll pay off for her and, she hopes, her Mount Rainier High School basketball team.
“She wants to be good at her craft, and she works diligently on it,” Rams coach Bob Bolam said.
And she wants that elusive state championship for the Rams after narrow semifinal losses the past two seasons.
“That’s fuel for the offseason,” McPhee, the school’s all-time leading scorer, said of those heartbreakers.
Not that McPhee needs much extra fuel.
“She’s very driven,” her father, Bryce, said.
That’s true on the basketball court and in the classroom, where she carries a 4.0 grade-point average.
And when she gets it, Brittany knows what to do with it, even when she’s double- or triple-teamed. She has averaged better than 20 points since her freshman year, along with 11-plus rebounds.
“Brittany is a scoring machine, and we look forward to having her here at Stanford,” Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer said in announcing the incoming class of recruits. “She’s hard-nosed, runs the floor well and we’re really excited about the way she plays.”
McPhee looks forward to being challenged at Stanford, athletically and academically. 
While she often comes across as quiet and shy, Brittany is funny and giggly and a lot like other 17-year-olds, her father points out — other than the fact she doesn’t like chocolate.
She gave up other sports, and most of a promising modeling career, to concentrate on basketball. Her favorite part of the game, she says, is scoring. But she doesn’t care how many points she finishes with, as long as the team wins.
After all, that’s what all of those extra miles have been for.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Taylor Rooks commits to Stanford

Taylor Rooks is joined by her family while signing an official National Letter of Intent with Stanford University., November 21, 2013

Taylor Rooks ’14, the third Division I girls’ basketball recruit produced by GSB in just five years, signed an official National Letter of Intent with Stanford University on November 13.

Rooks considered several Ivy League schools such as Harvard and Princeton before verbally committing to Stanford on October 14. In her opinion, it was the best fit for a real student-athlete. “Stanford offers the best of both worlds,” said Rooks. “I feel that going there will give me the greatest opportunity to maximize my potential as a student and as an athlete.”

Since she arrived at Gill in 2011, both teachers and coaches have recognized Rooks for her strong work ethic and willingness to learn. “Taylor is the quintessential student-athlete,” said Director of Athletics David Pasquale. “She is incredibly talented on the court and equally as impressive off the court. We are very proud of the way she’s represented our school.”

Rooks’ many athletic achievements include the 2013 Gatorade® New Jersey Girls’ Basketball Player-of-the-Year award. In addition, has been named Somerset County Player-of-the-Year and has earned All-State recognition.

Also with a 4.2 GPA in the classroom, Rooks shared plans to maintain her hard-working mentality next year. “Whether by putting in extra hours of studying, or working after and before practice on my own, I will continue to make myself the best I can be,” she said.

As the 6-foot-1 senior graduates from the Knights, she remains confident that the team she has helped to build will continue growing. “Even without us, Gill still has a great team with great players, and I have no doubt in my mind that they are going to do well next year,” said Rooks.

Similarly, she has high hopes for herself and has already found her place among the Cardinal. “I’ve met all of my teammates," she said. "They’re very welcoming and I think I will fit in well.”

Monday, November 18, 2013

Taylor Rooks signs with Stanford

Mike Becker,, November 14, 2013

In the girls basketball circuit, Gill St. Bernard’s senior Taylor Rooks signed her national letter of intent Wednesday morning to the powerhouse Stanford women’s basketball program, making official a decision she made four weeks ago in turning down offers from fellow finalists Princeton and Harvard as well as UConn. 

Rooks, who was born in Princeton but grew up in upstate New York, averaged 27.4 points, 9.6 rebounds, 3.2 steals and 1.7 blocks per game last year – her second at Gill. The 2013 Courier News Girls Basketball Player of the Year led her team to a 23-5 record, the Somerset County Tournament title and the NJSIAA Non-Public South B final.

“It gives the best of both worlds, academically as well as athletically,” Rooks, who plans to study engineering, said at the time. “They compete (against) a national schedule. They’re No. 1 or No. 2 every year, and they’re expected to do well every year. I feel it has the academic as well as the athletic push that I need.”

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Natrona’s Kaylee Johnson Signs With Stanford [AUDIO]

Kevin Koile,, November 13, 2013

Senior Filly will soon spread her wings and fly like a Cardinal.

Kaylee Johnson of Natrona, has made her college choice, signing the line to women’s college basketball at Stanford.

The current 2-time Wyoming Gatorade Player of the Year averaged 17.9 points per game, shot 50% from the field, with 14.8 rebounds per game, and 5.2 blocks per game, as a junior.
Click on the play button to hear portions of her interview at her press conference.
This isn’t the first time that Stanford has searched Wyoming for a recruit.
Kristen Newlin, a 2003 graduate of Riverton, played 4 years with Stanford, and was drafted in the 2007 WNBA draft.
She currently plays for the Women’s National Basketball Team in Turkey.

Natrona County's Kaylee Johnson signs with Stanford

Jack Nowlin,, November 14, 2013

Kaylee Johnson put aside her long-ago dream of playing basketball at Casper College on Wednesday when the Natrona County High School senior signed a national letter of intent to compete for perennial power Stanford University.
Johnson was one of three players who signed with Stanford on Wednesday. She joins Brittany McPhee of Des Moines, Iowa, and Taylor Rooks of Warren, N.J.
"Brittany, Kaylee and Taylor bring a variety of talents as well as a lot of energy that will fit right into our program," Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said in a statement.
The Cardinal has made 24 trips to the NCAA tournament and won two national championships under VanDerveer's watch.
On Wednesday, Johnson smiled when recalling her childhood dream.
“I really had the dream of playing at Casper College when I was growing up and going to their games,” Johnson said. “I thought that would be so fun.”
But as Johnson and her game continued to grow, Casper College soon became an afterthought.
“I got my first letter before my freshman year and I thought that was kind of cool,” Johnson said. “And then more and more [letters] came in and I figured I could go to college and play somewhere.”
That somewhere just happens to be Stanford, which is currently ranked No. 3 in The Associated Press Top 25.
Johnson made an immediate impact at Natrona County, leading the state in rebounding and blocked shots as a freshman. And she continued to improve. Johnson averaged 21 points and 13 rebounds as a sophomore, leading the Fillies to the Class 4A state championship game. Last year Johnson, who often faced double-teams and box-and-one defenses designed to stop her, averaged 17.9 points, 14.8 rebounds and 5.2 blocked shots per game.
Johnson earned back-to-back Wyoming Gatorade Player of the Year awards. 
“I’ve had kids that were driven and worked hard on developing their game, and then toward the end it fades,” Natrona coach Doug Diehl said. “But Kaylee just keeps getting stronger. She has a mental toughness that is like nothing I’ve ever seen.”
The 6-foot-3 Johnson already holds the program records in points, rebounds and blocked shots and enters this season fourth in steals.
Johnson said her original goal of playing at Casper College began to fade when she started playing AAU basketball with traveling teams in Colorado and Montana.
“At first, it was important to me to stay close to home and not venture out too much,” she said. “But as time went on and especially traveling with AAU basketball during the summer, I realized how fun it would be to go somewhere and get out of Casper, Wyoming. After I took the visit to Stanford I realized I didn’t want to be anywhere else.”
In the end, Johnson had narrowed her choices to Stanford, Colorado, Boston College and Arizona State before finally selecting the Cardinal.
Stanford, in addition to being one of the top academic institutions in the nation, has been a consistent model of success in women’s basketball since VanDerveer took over the program prior to the 1985-86 season.
“It’s the best mix of education and a basketball program I could find in the nation,” Johnson said. “I love the campus and everyone is so friendly and so happy to be there there’s no place better to be.”
The Cardinal like to get up and down the floor, a style of play for which Johnson is perfectly suited.
“She has a motor that you can’t coach,” Diehl said. “She outworks everybody on the floor and I knew she could be a Division I player if that’s what she wanted.
“She wants to play at the highest level. She doesn’t just want to be on the team, she wants to be the real thing.”

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Mount Rainier High basketball star Brittany McPhee chooses Stanford

Mount Rainier High School basketball star Brittany McPhee faxes her letter of intent to Stanford on Wednesday morning.
Todd Milles,, November 13, 2013

 — Right on cue, Brittany McPhee showed up in the library at Mount Rainier High School on Wednesday morning holding two important items.
One was a Stanford sweatshirt. The three-time SPSL North girls basketball player of the year was signing her national letter of intent to play for the Cardinal.
The other was a cookie sheet of raspberry scones. Per school tradition, an athlete signing an NCAA Division I scholarship was strongly advised to bring in breakfast goodies before the ceremony could begin.
The night before the biggest basketball moment of her life, McPhee and her father, Bryce, were baking.
"I helped," she said with a big smile.
In the past three seasons, McPhee has helped out Mount Rainier High School in a number of ways – primarily putting the Rams on the map of elite Northwest girls’ basketball programs.
"This has brought a lot of respect to our team, and our program and our school," Mount Rainier girls basketball coach Bob Bolam said. "It definitely hasn’t been me – I’ve just kind of gotten out of the way and let her play."
The non-football early signing period kicked off Wednesday, so this was McPhee's moment. She arrived well before the 7 a.m. signing ceremony.
Also in attendance was McPhee’s family, including her parents and twin sister, Jordan. Bolam and his coaching staff were also there as the star guard sat down at a table and inked her signature on the required paperwork.
From the main office, McPhee faxed her letter of intent to Stanford at 7:31 a.m. That is when she officially became a Cardinal.
"Really excited, I guess," McPhee said. "I slept well."
Stanford was one of a number of universities to contact McPhee, a 6-foot guard/forward, in September 2012. It wasn’t until Cardinal assistant coach Kate Paye showed up at the Class 4A state championships last March when things started to get serious.
“I’ve always wanted to go there since I saw them play when I was little,” McPhee said. “I didn’t know it was a reality until probably the state tournament until they were there watching me play.”
The Cardinal offered a scholarship in late June. And after McPhee finished up summer basketball in July, she sat down to decide among Stanford, Gonzaga and Nebraska as her final three schools.
In August, she gave an oral commitment to play for the Pac-12 Conference powerhouse.
McPhee joins power forward Kaylee Johnson (Natrona County High School in Wyoming) and fellow wing/off guard Taylor Rooks (Gill St. Bernard’s School in New Jersey) in the Cardinal’s class for 2014.
“She is going to one of the two best programs in the nation,” Bolam said. “It will challenge her. That is a good thing.”

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Three Sign With Cardinal, November 13, 2013

Setsuko Ishiyama Director of Women’s Basketball Tara VanDerveer announced the signing of Brittany McPhee, Kaylee Johnson and Taylor Rooks to National Letters of Intent Wednesday.

Johnson (Casper, Wyo./Natrona County HS), McPhee (Des Moines, Wash./Mount Rainier HS) and Rooks (Warren, N.J./Gill St. Bernard’s School) will join the Cardinal program ahead of the 2014-15 season.
“This is a very talented, very exciting group of young women that will be coming to Stanford next year,” said VanDerveer. “Brittany, Kaylee and Taylor bring a variety of talents as well as a lot of energy that will fit right into our program. I am very pleased to have them join the Stanford family.”
The trio joins a Stanford team that has captured 13 straight Pac-12 regular-season titles as well as the past seven Pac-12 Tournament crowns. Stanford is currently 1-1 in 2013-14, splitting the season-opening road trip at Boston College and Connecticut. The Cardinal opens its home campaign at Maples Pavilion this weekend, hosting Cal Poly Friday night at 7 p.m. and UC Davis Sunday at 2 p.m.
Johnson, a two-time Wyoming Gatorade Player of the Year (2012-13), is a 6-3 forward who casts an imposing defensive presence on opponents. The Casper, Wyo. native set a career high with 15 blocks in a game against Billings High School in 2012-13, and that year averaged 5.9 blocks per game in addition to 18.0 points, 13.9 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game as Natrona County reached the state 4A semifinals. In 2010-11 Johnson led Class 4A in scoring and rebounding and helped lead her team to the state title game.
“Kaylee is a shot blocker and a very energetic post player,” VanDerveer said. “She has proven that she can score and rebound, but we are very excited about her defensive skill and how that will boost us on that end of the floor.”
Hailing from the Pacific Northwest, McPhee, like Johnson, is a two-time state Gatorade Player of the Year, nabbing Washington’s top honor in 2012 and 2013. McPhee averaged 27.0 points per game last year, helping lead Mount Rainier to its second straight state 4A semifinal appearance.
The six-foot wing also scored in bunches as a sophomore, averaging 22.7 points and 11.0 rebounds as the Rams reached the semifinals of the state 4A tournament.
“Brittany is a scoring machine, and we look forward to having her here at Stanford,” VanDerveer said about McPhee. “She’s hard-nosed, runs the floor well and we’re really excited about the way she plays.”
“The long story [of why I chose Stanford] would be that I saw them when I was in 5th of 6th grade, and that’s when I knew where I wanted to go,” McPhee said Wednesday. “What also drew me to Stanford were the great academics and athletics together, as well as the great atmosphere of excellence. Everyone there is striving to do better.”
Rooks comes to The Farm with a Gatorade Player of the Year award under her belt, having captured New Jersey’s honor following last season. A six-foot wing/off-guard along with McPhee, Rooks averaged 27.4 points, 9.6 rebounds and 3.2 steals a game as Gill St. Bernard’s School finished 23-5 and claimed the Somerset County title. Her performance during the season also earned her player of the year honors from the Newark Star-Ledger.
“Taylor is a versatile, strong body that can play the two or the three positions,” noted VanDerveer. “She can rebound and score at a fast pace, and she also brings a solid defensive game into our fold.”
“I feel that Stanford offers me the best of both worlds,” Rooks told “[At Stanford] I’ll be able to compete for a national championship with a program where those achievements are expected, and academically I’m going to one of the best schools not just in the country, but in the world. I knew that Stanford would give me an opportunity to excel as both a student and an athlete.”

Monday, March 25, 2013

Central Catholic's Kailee Johnson is player of the year

Kailee Johnson celebrates Central Catholic's state-championship win over South Medford. 

, March 25, 2013
Kailee Johnson knew it was important to play with emotion this season. She just didn’t want emotions to play with her.

So Johnson took a big step forward in her maturity as a basketball player as a senior, channeling her energy into a single-minded pursuit -- bringing home a Class 6A championship for Central Catholic.

“My physical game has improved, but I had better control of my emotions,” Johnson said. “I didn’t get so crazy. I kept it calm. That was a change in my game that helped me this season.”

It all came together this season for the 6-foot-3 forward, to lead the Rams to their first state title.

The state’s coaches have voted Johnson as the Class 6A player of the year. She is the third Central Catholic player in five seasons to win the award.

“I truly did not set out that many personal goals,” Johnson said. “My main goal this season was to win the state championship, by any means necessary. I’m just really proud to be able to get a banner for my school.”

The Stanford-bound Johnson averaged 18.1 points, 10.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 3.1 steals and 1.9 blocked shots while shooting 63.5 percent from the field and 62.6 percent on free throws.

“She’s matured every year, but this year I think she had such a vision,” Rams coach Sandy Dickerson said. “Every day her focus was on getting herself better, getting this team better, and not being denied that championship. I think anybody that saw her three games at the tournament knew that that’s what her mission was.”

Johnson can score inside and outside and is dominant on the backboards. She also is a force on defense, using her long frame and quickness to shut down passing lanes and contest shots all over the court.

She embraced defensive challenges. 

“My goal that game was to focus on my defense and rebounding,” Johnson said. “That’s really what it was about this season. We knew what we wanted to get done.”

Johnson is the daughter of former Tigard three-sport standout Jacob Johnson, who played football at Oregon, and the granddaughter of Ken Johnson, who coached girls basketball at Tigard. She grew up in Tigard and as a seventh-grader moved to the Grant district in northeast Portland.

She visited Central Catholic and Grant before deciding to attend the southeast Portland school.

“My decision wasn’t really based on basketball at all,” she said. “It was just more about the education and the environment I wanted to be in.”

“I kind of wish our season would’ve kept going,” Johnson said. “I’m going to miss it a lot.”