Ten years ago, the St. John’s Jesuit basketball team had a “Big Three” trio of standout players in its lineup with then-senior guard Brian Roberts along with junior forwards B.J. Raymond and Zach Hillesland.
The Big Three took the Titans to the Division I state semifinals in 2003, to the D-I state championship game in 2004, then went on to impressive college careers at Dayton, Xavier, and Notre Dame, respectively.
Last year, Roberts made it the NBA after having toiled in professional leagues overseas.
A decade later, Toledo high school basketball has another Big Three, this time in the girls game at Notre Dame.
The Eagles have a trio that has already been part of back-to-back trips to the Division I state semifinals.
In 2011-12, current senior Jayda Worthy was a starter in the 22-5 Eagles’ semifinal loss to Kettering Fairmont, while current juniors Kaayla McIntyre and Tierra Floyd had lesser roles.
But last season, after Notre Dame had graduated four starters from the 2011-12 squad, Worthy, McIntyre, and Floyd were the collective driving force that got the 25-4 Eagles back to the state semis, where once again they lost to Fairmont.
If Notre Dame is to make it three straight trips to state, it is expected that the Big Three will play a major role, along with junior guard Christiana Jefferson, the team’s other returning starter.
“We’re fortunate to have three players who, on any given night, can carry us,” said sixth-year Notre Dame coach Travis Galloway, who has a 91-29 record. “And to be honest, I think we have some other kids who are beginning to emerge and might be able to do that on any given night also.
“If teams can take away those three, we have other kids who can step up and play. But our success goes through Worthy, Floyd, and McIntyre.”
The 6-foot Worthy, a versatile forward, led the Eagles in scoring last season at 12.5 points per game and pulled down 6.8 rebounds a contest.
Floyd, a 6-2 wing with the team’s widest array of skills, contributed 11.9 points and 5.7 rebounds.
McIntyre, a dominant 6-2 post player, averaged 10.5 points and 8.1 boards.
“There’s a lot of pressure on them because they’re going to get everybody’s best defenders,” Galloway said. “But they also understand they can play very well together, and they don’t have to force the issue so much.”
The quick 5-5 Jefferson, often a spark offensively and defensively when Notre Dame needed it most, added 6.2 points and 3.7 assists to the mix in 2012-13, when the Eagles ran their two-year record in the Three Rivers Athletic Conference to 28-0.
If they flew under the radar early last season, there will be no such luxury for Galloway’s Eagles now.
“We were able to sneak up on some teams last year,” Galloway said. “These kids understand they have the pieces in place to make another return trip to Columbus, but they also understand other teams are going to be giving us their best shot.
“We have to take care of business every time we step out on the floor. The league is competitive. We’ve been fortunate to win it the last couple years. We will have to have the same approach in every league game, non-league game, and tournament game. Try to do what we do best and hope it works that night.
“We have to continue to push each other and not get complacent. If we win another league title and make another state tournament run, it’ll be because we pushed each other in practice, one through 12 on the roster. Things are not going to be given to us because of what we did last year.”