As a junior, Ashlyn May led the Fieldcrest girls basketball team to its first state tournament appearance.
That success came with many accolades for May.
But instead of resting on her laurels, May put in more time than ever into basketball, playing AAU for the first time and working to improve her shooting form.
The result was another strong season to put an exclamation point on a stellar career.
May averaged 14.1 points, 4.2 assists and 3.7 steals, which all ranked top five in the area, while leading the Knights to a 32-4 record, a Heart of Illinois Conference championship and a repeat sectional title.
She was voted unanimous All-HOIC and HOIC All Defense, Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Class 2A First-Team All State and Associated Press Class 2A Second-Team All State.
For all she accomplished this season, May is the NewsTribune Girls Basketball Player of the Year for the third year in a row.
May is just the third player to win the award three or more times since its inception in 1990-91, joining Mendota’s Jaci Bice, the area’s all-time leading scorer, and Hall’s Kailey Klein, who went on to play Division I at Cleveland State.
“To have the type of season she had last year and then to make it that much better just shows the strides she made in the offseason,” Fieldcrest coach Mitch Neally said. “For the first time she played travel basketball, which I think exposed her to some good talent and showed her some of her weaknesses and what she needed to improve on, and she’s constantly trying to improve her craft.”
May played over the summer with the Illinois Valley Warriors, and playing that type of competition helped her push her game to another level.
“It was a little different for me, but I think it really pushed me because we were playing against girls who all wanted to be there and all wanted to get better, so it was much higher competition,” May said. “I think it helped me a lot to be able to play against teams like that and just try to handle adversity at a higher level.”
Playing AAU and having played varsity basketball since she was a freshman helped May be comfortable in big moments, which served as a calming presence and helped the Knights pull out key wins.
“She was a three-time captain, which is a rare thing, but I think it says a lot about what her teammates thought of her as a leader,” Neally said. “I think the even-keeled ability she has helped keep us together. I can think of a lot of big games we’ve played that were close games or games we were down and you always saw her composed. I think that was something then team saw and that helped us keep calm in those moments and overcome that adversity and led to some big wins and big runs that we’ve had.”
She also worked on her shooting form by watching TikTok videos from a college player and practicing at the park while also working to improve her defense.
That showed up on the court this season as she shot 58 percent from the field and was voted to the HOIC All-Defense Team.
May, who said “getting to the basket and attacking hard” is her main offensive weapon, could have scored more but that wasn’t her top priority.
“I’ve always been the type of player that is always looking for the most open person,” May said. “Usually, I don’t try to force shots. I just want to get our team on top and I think I have had that throughout my whole high school career.”
Behind May’s all-around game, leadership and demeanor on the court, the Knights went 105-15 over the last four seasons, winning three HOIC titles, three regional championships — with the spring 2021 that didn’t have a postseason being the lone exception — and two sectional crowns.
Prior to May’s arrival, the program had only two 20-win seasons and one regional title.
“We were a well-established program her first year. We just won our first regional her eighth-grade year, then to get a type of player like her, that really took our program to the next level and made us get to the elite type of status like it’s at now,” Neally said. “It takes a special kind of player to help your program take that next step up. She’s a coach’s dream of what you want from a player, especially a point guard. Because she’s had the mindset of team first, that’s why our team has been so successful.
“I think she’s made the most of her opportunity at Fieldcrest and she’s going to leave a legacy that’s going to last a long time.”
May leaves as Fieldcrest’s second-leading scorer with 1,446 points and leader in assists (464) and steals (400).
She’ll continue her career at Illinois Wesleyan University.
“I was honored to play for Fieldcrest and coach Neally,” May said “It’s going to be hard to leave here, but I’m excited to see what’s next.”