Oakton junior guard Jasmine Thomas made a promise to herself a month after last basketball season ended. No matter how well she had played, no matter how many awards she had received, she would never try to recreate the 2004-05 season.
She would try to improve on it.
Several other elite players approached the offseason with the same challenge: Take already-dominant skills and refine them further. Thomas, an All-Met who averaged 21 points last season, spent the summer and fall developing an outside shot she hopes will facilitate her dribble-drive game.
"When you have a great year, you've got to work even harder to challenge yourself and get better," said Thomas, one of three returning All-Mets this winter, along with Good Counsel's Kaili McLaren and Forest Park's Monica Wright. "Everybody else was like, 'Oh, you should just do what you did last year.' But to me, that's not good enough."
Nor was it adequate for a handful of other players who have opted to build -- not rely -- on their reputations from last season. McLaren, a senior, developed two new post moves that should make her more of a threat on offense. Edison guard Doreena Campbell taught herself to be more vocal as a leader. Eleanor Roosevelt center Selena Nwude improved her mid-range jump shot.
"That's the difference between a good player and a great player -- the great one is always pushing for the next level," Eleanor Roosevelt Coach Rod Hairston said. "Selena did some great things last year. Now she can do all of that and hit a mid-range jumper. She never stopped working."
Thomas, too, transitioned seamlessly from one season to the next. After she led Oakton to the state semifinals last year, she sat down with Coach Fred Priester and talked about potential weak spots.
Priester didn't see too many; Thomas identified the jump shot.
"She's already a much better shooter this year than last year, and that's all because of her hard work," Priester said. "She shot every day until she felt good. That's a lot of shots, and she's a better player for it."
-- Eli Saslow