A little while after Danielle Bird was named the Journal-World’s All-Area Girls Basketball Player of the Year after last season, Bird’s father, Troy, congratulated her and then turned his attention to younger daughter Taylor.
Troy issued a challenge for the younger Bird sister to repeat the feat and keep the honor in the family.
So she did.
“I kinda had to,” Bird said with a laugh. “He just kind of expected it. I didn’t really expect it, but it was something that I knew I could get. (Danielle and I) have gotten a few awards after each other, and it’s always been pretty cool.”
Pretty clutch was the reason for this one. In being named the Journal-World’s All-Area Girls Basketball Player of the Year, Bird delivered in every way imaginable for the Lawrence High girls.
She was the team’s leading scorer and rebounder and was among the leaders in blocks, assists and steals. She finished the season as the only player in the Sunflower League to rank in the Top 8 of all four major categories — second in points (17.5 ppg), second in rebounds (9 rpg), eighth in assists (3 apg) and sixth in steals (3.1 spg) — and one of just two players to rank in the Top 6 in points, rebounds and steals.
The reason? Her mindset.
“I think I just got more confident over the summer and I knew we had to have someone that scored,” Bird said. “I didn’t really think about things too much. I just went out there and played and whatever happened happened.”
Putting up big-time numbers was nothing new for Bird, who has played — and starred — with the LHS varsity since her sophomore season. She was the team’s MVP after her sophomore season — an honor Danielle followed up by winning last year — and was a three-time first teamer on the all-Sunflower League squad.
But the road to her stellar senior season has been a poster for player development. As the year’s and teams changed, so, too, did Bird, filling whatever role the team needed most at the time.
“To be in those top four categories in the Sunflower League is amazing,” LHS coach Kristin Mallory said. “And Taylor wasn’t just in them, she was up there.”
That she could be one of the best players in the league was not surprising. That she did so dominantly was.
“Probably the fact that I got up there in rebounding, I didn’t expect that,” said Bird when asked which area of her game surprised her the most this season. “A lot of them were my own rebounds. When it comes out of my hands I know if it’s gonna go in or miss and if it’s off, I just try to go after it.”
That phrase probably best describes the way Bird played her final season in an LHS uniform. Whether it was the night she scored 33 points in a loss to Concordia — something she said she was unaware of until after the contest – or the final night of her career, when Bird came out guns-a-blazin’ and singlehandedly kept LHS in the game for a quarter and a half, she always played with passion, on every possession of every quarter of every game.
“The difference between Taylor and a lot of kids that are talented is the passion she plays with,” Mallory said. “She just exudes passion and plays so hard every time out.”