Leedom’s NE team wins All-Star Series
West Marshall’s Isabelle Gradwell finishes second in 3-point shootout
GRIMES — It was a full day of basketball action at Dallas Center-Grimes High School Saturday as the Iowa Basketball Coaches Association Senior All-Star Series got underway.
Two area players represented their schools in the games, with East Marshall’s Zaine Leedom playing for the Northeast boys team and West Marshall’s Isabelle Gradwell playing for the Northeast girls.
Leedom and the Northeast boys won their first game of the day with a 109-97 victory over the Southwest team, with Leedom finishing third on the team in scoring with 15 points.
He wasn’t as effective in the championship game against the Southeast team, finishing with only six points in the final contest, but the Northeast boys pulled out a 107-103 victory despite a 39-point performance by recently-crowned Iowa Mr. Basketball Joe Weiskamp.
None of the Northeast players quite matched Weiskamp in the final, but A.J. Green from Class 4A state champion Cedar Falls finished with 18 points, leading a group of six Northeast players in double figures.
Leedom said playing on a team with Green and against players like Weiskamp was truly a day to remember.
“It was awesome having guys like A.J. on my team, I would have liked to have Joe obviously too because he’s tough,” he said. “It was a good experience to be able to play with some of those guys, we have some good players in our conference but nothing compares to some of these guys.”
Not only did Leedom get to play with some of the top players in the state, he got to learn from state champion head coach Ryan Schultz, who he said he was able to take some words of wisdom from.
“He talked a lot about keeping moving on offense, sometimes I caught myself standing and he would have to remind me ‘hey, let’s keep moving’ so that’s probably something I will take away, otherwise you’re not in the play anymore,” Leedom said.
Gradwell and the Northeast girls were locked in a tight battle in the first game but ultimately lost to the Southwest squad, 69-63. Gradwell had three points in the first game while Makayla Nachazel from 2A state champs Springville led the Northeast with 12. Grace Berg from Indianola led the Southwest girls with 18 points.
In game two it was the Ashley Joens show, as the recently crowned miss Iowa Basketball from Iowa City High led the Southeast team with 32 points in a 79-68 victory over the Northeast. Gradwell had four points in the consolation game, while Ashley Tull from North Linn and Nachazel each had 17 in the loss.
“It’s really cool to be able to play against girls that I see at AAU tournaments and that I was able to watch at the state tournament,” Gradwell said of her experience in the series. “It was also a challenge to play against someone like Ashley Joens who plays at Attack also. She’s a really good player that I played with when we were in eighth grade, it’s amazing to see the process of hard work and dedication pay off.”
Between the two games, Gradwell was one of two players from her team to participate in the 3-point contest, and after the first two rounds it came down to her and teammate Hailey Dolphin from Cedar Rapids Kennedy for the championship. In the end Dolphin walked away victorious, but Gradwell said she was happy with her showing.
“Honestly I was a little surprised with the competition at the games that I placed so highly,” she said. “I prepared for it for a long time last night and didn’t leave the gym until i made 10 in a row at each of the five spots but it’s cool that my hard work showed in the competition.”
Both Gradwell and Leedom were a big part of their team’s plans in the games, and they both did their best to represent their schools well.
“It’s an honor really,” Leedom said. “I am sure there were a ton of guys that didn’t get chosen that were qualified but I was the one of the lucky few 40 or however many were picked. I was one of those guys and that’s an awesome feeling to be a part of that.”