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December 6, 2012

Scoring phenom a future Hoosier

Peegs.com has rarely covered recruiting when it comes to Indiana women's basketball team, but this past weekend we made an exception. We went to see the girl that might end up the most talked about Hoosier women's basketball recruit ever, junior guard Tyra Buss from Mount Carmel, Illinois.

Why might Buss achieve that lofty hype? Take her first game this year against Marshall High of Illinois. Buss went out and scored 51 of her team's 60 points in a four point victory. And it wasn't as if she was hoisting up a ton of shots. Buss missed just three of 17 shots from the floor to go along with 17 free throws.

The 51 points wasn't even her career high. A year ago as a sophomore she put up 53 on Evansville Bosse in a six point win.

Even as a freshman in 2010-11, Buss averaged more than 30 points per game.

"She's just a scorer," says Mount Carmel head coach Tim Willis. "Doesn't do anything great offensively, but she does it all really, really good. Shoots the three, takes it to the basket, hits a mid-range shot, which is what we're really working on to help her grow and get her ready for Indiana."

The 5-foot-7 player certainly looked like a great shooter Saturday morning at the Marshall County Hoopfest in Benton, Kentucky. Playing the host school, Buss knocked down five three-pointers in a 71-57 victory.

Check out her terrific shooting via the highlight clips Peegs.com compiled from the Saturday game:

Buss would finish with 38 points, thanks to those long range bombs and 13-for-17 free throw shooting. Many of those freebies came late in the game as Mount Carmel tried to keep the ball in her hands to protect the game long lead.

A year ago Buss knocked down 283 free throws, the second most ever in Illinois high school girls basketball.

"Her ball handling ability is so special that late in the game we spread it out and say 'go play' and she shoots free throws so well---I'm not that smart of a coach but when you have a kid that shoots 85 percent, you give her the ball and let her play," said Willis.

Giving the ball to Buss to protect a lead late in a game may be modus operandi at Assembly Hall for Curt Miller's Hoosier team in a couple years. Just a couple weeks ago, Buss made the decision to commit to Indiana despite offers from much of the Big Ten and a slew of other high major programs.

"It was a very tough decision but whenever I went to visit IU, I knew all along where I was going to end up," said Buss. "I love coach Miller, the coaching staff and all the girls there. They really welcomed me when I was there to visit, all were super nice and supportive. He's a great coach and will do great things. He's already turned the program around and it's going to keep getting better."

Miller's women's team had a six game winning streak end Sunday against Cleveland State. Indiana hired the former Bowling Green coach this past spring following a 6-24 season under prior coach Felisha Legette-Jack.

"They did a fabulous job of staying in contact and working with us," said Willis. "They're obviously putting together a program that IU fans, myself included, can be really proud off. I think you're going to see that program take off like coach (Tom) Crean did with the boys side."

There are a few Indiana fans in Mount Carmel as the school is just across the Wabash River from the Hoosier state, near Gibson County in southwest Indiana.

"We're just 2 1/2 hours from Bloomington and play in an Indiana conference," said Willis. "We're kind of the Indiana school of Illinois."

It was a Big Eight Conference showdown on Tuesday night at Princeton High in Indiana. After a slow start, Buss came up big down the stretch, scoring her team's final 17 points and 35 in the game en route to a 61-48 road win over the Tigers. The Aces are now a perfect 9-0 on the season and ranked No. 6 in Class 2A in Illinois.

Hoosier fans in a couple years will see a player who's outstanding on both ends of the floor.

"People don't give her the credit for how she plays defense, that really sparks a lot of what we do offensively," said Willis. "Extremely quick hands. If you leave it out there, it's gone."

Saturday's game didn't give her the chance to show those quick hands.

"I got in a bit of foul trouble so I couldn't really steal it as much as I do usually," said Buss. "I usually average a double-double (points & steals)."

Making the early decision gives Buss two full seasons of not having to worry about what comes next.

"It was to a point that she was losing focus and she wanted to make that decision so she could just enjoy playing basketball," said Willis. "I think it took a little off her mind and she's better for it."

One area of potential pressure may be hard to avoid, that being the opportunity to break the all-time state scoring record. Buss averaged 33.5 points per game her first two seasons at Mount Carmel, accumulating 2,146 points. That has her ahead of pace to break the state of Illinois career scoring record of 4,031 points currently held by Brittany Johnson of Olney (2003-07). This year she's upped her average by a couple points per game but the record is not on her mind.

"People bring that up a lot but I don't feel any pressure from that," said Buss. "I just go out and play, and have fun. Don't worry about how many points I score, I just want to win."

Chalk that attitude up to being from a basketball family.

"I think her father played Division III and both her brothers played high school, an athletic family, and she's used to competing against her bigger brothers who didn't take much mercy on her," said Willis. "She's just a competitor and that's what IU fans will really like. She's not going to let anyone else win."

And basketball is not the only sport she has excelled in for Mount Carmel. This fall she was named all-state in tennis for the third straight season. She's also competed in cross country and track. Last spring she finished in sixth place in the 300 meter hurdles at the Illinois Class 2A state track finals. Her 45.72 time in the finals broke the school record.

Is one of her future accomplishments filling the seats at Assembly Hall? That answer is still at least a couple years away.

To hear more from Tyra, check out our exclusive video interview from Saturday:

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