high school basketball:

Super Seven: Centennial’s Ethridge becoming more than just an elite shooter

The UNLV recruit is one of three from Centennial on the Sun’s annual preseason team


Christopher DeVargas

Justice Ethridge of Centennial High School is part of the Las Vegas Sun’s Super Seven girls preseason all-city basketball team, Nov. 14, 2017.

Wed, Dec 6, 2017 (2 a.m.)

Centennial guard Justice Ethridge doesn’t say much. Whether it’s in a practice or social setting, the 5-foot-8 senior is often reserved.

Rather, she let’s her game do most of the talking. And in last year’s state championship game, Ethridge lived up to her “silent assassin” moniker.

She scored 22 points in the first half and made an NIAA championship game record six 3-pointers in leading the Bulldogs to their third straight state title and top-5 national ranking.

Ethridge is one of three Centennial players on the Sun’s Super Seven preseason team, landing on the exclusive list for a second season.

“She doesn’t say two words in practice,” Centennial coach Karen Weitz said. “It’s her physical example. The way she practices every day and the way she plays.”

Ethridge, a UNLV commit, averaged 13 points per game last season and is rated as a three-star prospect by HoopGurlz.com. They consider her the nation’s No. 16 ranked guard for 2018.

Ethridge has worked long hours on honing her shooting craft. Once the 3-pointers starting falling in the state game, it felt like another day of putting up shots in the gym.

“It is natural. I have always been a shooter,” she said. “It has always come easy.”

For Centennial to repeat as champions, Ethridge will need to add to her arsenal, Weitz said. Instead of roaming around the 3-point arc looking for her shot, Ethridge will be asked to create her own scoring opportunities.

“She needs to do more for us and get to the basket more,” the coach said.

Ethridge is determined to win a fourth straight championship. She enters this season having lost just five games — all to ranked national opponents.

“My mentality has improved from freshman year until now,” she said. “As a senior, you have to lead people. I have to do a lot more for my team now.”

Read about the rest of our Super Seven team below.

Essence Booker, Spring Valley

5-foot-8 guard

Booker’s four-year career with the Grizzlies has included a state championship, state runner-up finish, multiple all-state awards, and one more accolade: The UNR signee is the second girls players in the eight-year history of the Super Seven to be a three-time selection.

“I have been working on how I develop myself as a leader,” she said.

Booker, who averaged 15 points and six rebounds per game in 2016-17, has averaged double figures in scoring each season.

Spring Valley lost in the Sunset Regional championship game last year. Booker aspires to lead her team back to the state tournament, where they were class 3A champions during her freshman season.

“I am never trying to settle for what I have done, always looking to do more,” she said.

Rae Burrell, Liberty

6-foot-1 forward

Not only is Burrell one of Las Vegas’ top players, the Tennessee recruit has also gained national acclaim. She is a five-star prospect by ESPN and considered the nation’s No. 48 recruit for the class of 2018. Her athleticism on the perimeter is second to none.

“It is my versatility,” she said. “I can drive, shoot and pass. And I play good defense,” she said.

Burrell averaged 18 points and seven rebounds per game last season while playing for Foothill, including scoring 30 points in a Sunrise Region championship victory against Liberty — her new team.

She’ll team with Dre’una Edwards, another Super Seven selection, to give Liberty a chance to win the state championship.

Dre’una Edwards, Liberty

6-foot-2 forward/center

It’s rare for a high school team to have two talented post players taller than 6 feet. But at Liberty, Edwards and Burrell give the Patriots a distinct advantage on the interior.

In addition to making the Patriots better, they make each other better.

“We improve each other a lot in practice,” Edwards said. “Going at it in scrimmages and drills all the time (makes us better).”

Edwards, a Utah signee, averaged 17 points and 14 rebounds last season. But the Patriots came up short in the playoff — something she determined would not happen again.

“I am hoping to win state,” she said.

Melanie Isbell, Centennial

5-foot-3 guard

Isbell, who averaged eight points and four rebounds per game last season for reigning state champion Centennial, is credited for her aggressive style of play. That’s something she developed at Centennial.

“It’s the competition. Coach (Karen) Weitz is getting me ready for college,” Isbell said. “(We have) almost a college environment.”

Isbell, a junior, is a three-star recruit by ESPN and verbally committed to hometown UNLV. There will be three Centennial players in the Lady Rebels program.

“I’m looking forward to that,” she said.

Dajaah Lightfoot, Desert Oasis

6-foot forward

Lightfoot, a Tennessee State commit, averaged 9.9 points and 6.4 rebounds per game last season to help the Diamondbacks reach the Sunset Regional semifinals.

Lightfoot embraces her role on the interior.

“The main part of my game is rebounding, and being a leader on and off the court,” she said.

Lightfoot is a three-year varsity player and last season was an all-state honorable mention selection. This season, the motivation is simple: “We want to achieve our goals and make it to state this year,” she said.

Eboni, Walker, Centennial

6-foot forward

Walker is a four-star recruit by ESPN, which lists her as the class of 2019’s 37th best recruit. She averaged 10 points and eight rebounds per game last season during her sophomore year to help Centennial win the state championship.

Walker is considered a strong defender who is equally good near the basket as on the perimeter, according to ESPN.

“I chose throughout my high school career to focus on what I do best — rebounding and defense,” she said. “I try to work with my teammates on what they do best. So I didn’t try to do everything. I try to do what I could for the team.”

Ray Brewer can be reached at 702-990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21

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