IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Don’t let Sydney Ignoffo’s serious basketball chops fool you.
The high-scoring Highland Park High School junior guard has been known to lighten the mood at practices with her ability to cut a rug on hardwood.
“I do love to dance,” the 5-foot-4 Ignoffo admits. “Hip-hop mostly. I like to have fun. Sometimes, though, I get in trouble when I dance too much.”
Her shots — especially a trio of treys — shimmied the nets without the aid of any music at Vernon Hills High School on Feb. 2. Ignoffo poured in 13 of her team’s first 20 points and finished with a team-high 17 (her average this season, her third on varsity) in a 52-37 loss to the Cougars (16-9, 8-1 in the Central Suburban League North).
“There’s a lot to like about Sydney’s game,” Giants senior point guard Kirby Bartelstein says. “Her shooting … it’s insane. As a point guard, it’s nice knowing I get to pass to an accurate shooter like Sydney. Her defense has improved, and her attitude, her competitiveness on the court, is contagious.”
One of two returning all-CSL North picks (with 6-1 sophomore Addie Budnik) this winter, Ignoffo established herself as a clutch performer in HP’s comeback victory over Glenbrook North last season. She had a hand — at both ends of the court — in a game-turning 10-0 run.
“Big shots, making steals … Sydney was focused and productive late in that game for us,” Giants coach Jolie Bechtel recalls. “Right now she has one of the higher shooting percentages in our league; she can shoot well from just about anywhere on the court. She’s quick, gets her hands on the ball defensively. She’s gotten better defensively, and that’s primarily why she is a better player this season.”
Ignoffo averages close to three assists and three steals per game for the Giants (11-14, 5-4 in CSL North play). Against VH last weekend she collected four steals and grabbed a pair of rebounds to go with her 17 points. She fell hard on her right (shooting) wrist while getting fouled early in the fourth quarter, before a tumbling Cougar landed just as hard on the base of Ignoffo’s right thumb.
Ignoffo shook off the pain in her valuable mitt and made the ensuing two free throws.
“To be a leader, for sure,” Ignoffo, a Full Package AAU player, says, referring to one of her HPHS roles this winter. “It’s also up to me to get open and to find open teammates. Looking back at my freshman year, the older girls trusted me, and I trusted them. I don’t just get excited when I play; I like to cheer from our bench when others get to play.
“A bench’s energy — a team has to have that,” she adds. “We had that going for us in that big win over Glenbrook North last year.”
Ignoffo jumped for her first alley-oop pass in her driveway years ago. The passer? Mike Ignoffo, the dancer’s dad.
“My dad always encouraged me to work on my shooting in my early years,” Ignoffo says. “He’s been great, totally supportive, like my mom (Lisa, with a background in volleyball) has.”
The best part of basketball for Sydney Ignoffo?
Not the wins.
Not the points next to her name in the box score.
Not the honors.
“The relationships you develop through basketball,” says Ignoffo, who might consider teaching or coaching or doing both at a school someday. “There’s nothing better than making those in basketball. My teammates, they’re going to be my friends forever. The memories I’ve had? I’ll have those forever, too.
“I also appreciate the lessons I’ve learned in this sport.”
Notable: Highland Park junior guard Sydney Ignoffo and sophomore Addie Budnik combined to score the Giants’ first 26 points in a 52-37 loss to host Vernon Hills on Feb. 2. Ignoffo would finish with 17 points, Budnik with 11. A trey from HP senior point guard Kirby Bartelstein and consecutive two-point buckets from Giants sophomore forward Halle Abrams cut the Cougars’ lead to 43-33 at the 3:12 mark of final quarter; VH had taken a seemingly comfortable 42-24 advantage three-plus minutes earlier. Budnik finished with team highs of six steals and three blocks, and Abrams paced the visitors in rebounds with six, one more than senior Lily Biagi’s total.