For the vast majority of high school girls basketball players, having the opportunity to be a four-year standout for your team is more than they could hope for.
But when an athlete emerges who not only is good enough to become her school’s all-time leading scorer, is the key leader during a program’s best stretch of success and receives All-State recognition twice before beginning her senior season, it’s really quite an amazing feat. And that’s just what Lincoln-Way West’s Taylor Gugliuzza has accomplished.
The junior guard led the Warriors to a memorable 27-5 season, where they tied the school record for wins from the previous year and won their program’s first regional title since 2010. And there certainly was no shame in losing in the sectional to Mother McAuley, who finished second in Class 4A.
All of those accomplishments made it an easy decision to recognize Gugliuzza as The Herald-News’ Girls Basketball Player of the Year for the second year in row.
“These past three years, I’ve loved playing basketball at West,” Gugliuzza said. “I’ve met so many amazing people and the coaches are fun and that just really helps make the basketball part way easier. I love our offense and whenever we’re together; it’s so easy to really be that good on an offensive team that scores a lot. We were lucky enough that was us this year, so I really like that. That’s what we like to do the best and I think that’s what we are the best at.”
Gugliuzza’s résumé for the 2018-19 season was impressive. She averaged 21.0 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.5 steals, while shooting 49 percent from the field and making 65 3-point baskets with 38 percent accuracy from beyond the arc, and making 158 of her 211 free-throw attempts for 75 percent accuracy.
Those accolades not only made her an all-conference selection for the second straight year and the 2018-19 SouthWest Suburban Conference Red Division Athlete of the Year, but also earned her all-tournament honors at Lincoln-Way’s Central/West Invite and being selected the MVP at the Oswego East Holiday Tournament.
She received the ultimate recognition by being named as one of five Illinois players who were selected for the Associated Press Class 4A All-State Team, joining Rock Island’s Brea Beal, Maine West’s Rachel Kent, Hononegah’s Jordan King and Lake Park’s Darrione Rogers. She was a second-team selection for that same honor last season.
And this was the second year in a row where she made the second team in the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association All-State voting. After being honored on the Class 3A/4A second team in 2018, she made the second team in Class 4A this year.
Following her special season, Gugliuzza has decided on what she intends to do after graduating from West. She announced this week that she’ll continue her academic studies and athletic career at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
Warriors coach Ryan White, who excelled as a ballhandler while shooting with accuracy and assisting teammates with their scoring during his successful Lincoln-Way career, definitely feels very fortunate to be able to coach a talent such as Gugliuzza.
“Taylor has been a do-everything player this year and for her career,” White said. “She can do anything we ask on the floor. She can rebound when needed, as she had four double-digit rebound games. She can distribute when needed, as she had two double-digit assist games.
“Taylor does what the team needs to win the game. She has a unique ability to sense when she is needed to take over scoring. And at the same time sense when her teammates are hot and get them the ball.”
After moving past the 1,500-point mark in a home game in February, Gugliuzza now has 1,646 points, 437 rebounds, 320 assists, 275 steals, 196 3-pointers and has made 350 of 472 free-throw attempts as she sets her sights on another big season as a senior.
She’ll miss playing with longtime teammate Tara Hastings, but will be on the same team again with her sister Tara, who’s a sophomore, and also with Sydney Swanberg.
“I’m excited for next year,” Gugliuzza said. “Obviously the loss of [Hastings] and the seniors is tough on us, but I think that we should be just as good and possibly better. We really learned a lot from the McAuley game and I think that’s going to help us go as a team.
“My team has been really helpful in everything that I’ve accomplished, not only for myself but for the whole team. I really like that we can all get along and all play basketball together. I’m trying to make myself better than I was this year. So I’m going to work on my defense and leadership skills since being a senior the younger kids look up to me, so I really want to help them and teach them for what they need.”