Anyone who doubts the ability or talent of Tyra Buss really needs to get out and watch her play basketball.

There is no reason for a debate or anything; she's simply a great player. And she's still just 15 years old.

The Mount Carmel sophomore produced 1,025 points last season, which is a state record for a freshman. She'll cross the 2,000 point mark within the next few weeks.

Buss dominated the Eldorado Lady Eagle Winter Classic last week and helped her team claim the championship with a 5-0 record.

She scored 183 points in the tournament and earned MVP honors for the second straight year.

"I put a lot of extra time in," Buss said. "Whenever I'm not doing anything you can always find me in the gym shooting. I just want to get better and improve my game to the best it can possibly be."

The 5-foot-6 point guard can pretty much do it all. She is a good 3-point shooter, can take defenders off the dribble for layups and shoots 85 percent from the foul line.

Buss receives a lot of attention, but doesn't really focus on it at all.

"I just don't really pay attention to what people are saying about me," Buss said. "I only care about playing basketball with my teammates and having fun."

This season, Buss has continued to have a lot of fun and success on the basketball court. She led the nation in scoring earlier this season and currently sits in third place at 36 points per game.

She'll have her choice of universities when it comes time to decide next season. Most of the Big Ten is after her along with plenty of others, including Evansville, Indiana State and Southern Illinois. Stanford, Tennessee and about 60 other schools are recruiting her as well.

It's a tough decision that Buss doesn't take lightly.

"I want to get a good education, so I want it to be a good school," Buss said. "I want it to be somewhat close to home so that my family can watch me and support me. But I really haven't thought much about it."

Buss first realized that she could be a really good basketball player back in sixth grade. At the time, coaches were comparing her to Brittany Johnson, who is the all-time leading scorer in Illinois prep history at 4,031 points. Johnson played at Olney East Richland and moved on to Ohio State University.

This is undoubtedly a great time for Buss, but it's not always easy for the 15-year-old sophomore. She has appeared in Sports Illustrated and was a finalist for the prestigious Ms. Basketball award last year.

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But as is usually the case with teenage girls, jealousy creeps in. Buss gets heckled by not only her opponents on the basketball court but by some adults as well.

"Sometimes it bothers me, but I'm used to it, so it doesn't really bother me that much anymore," Buss said. "At first it was kind of bad because people would try to get in my head. But I just tune them out and play. I know that's how it's going to be from now on."

It can be difficult for opposing fans to handle watching Buss play. She's usually so much better than everyone else on the court that it probably is frustrating to watch.

"I'm nice to everyone, and I really can't help what some people say to me," Buss said. "I don't really like it when people say something bad to me because I would never say those things to someone else."

Mount Carmel coach Tim Willis is in a unique position having Buss on his team. It's always a hard decision trying to decide when to pull her from the game. Buss scored more than 30 points in the first half of two games last week in Eldorado and sat on the bench for most of the third and fourth quarters.

"I didn't look at her after I took her out in the third quarter the other night," Willis said. "It probably wasn't a nice look on her face because she always wants to play. But she is one of the best cheerleaders we've got even though I know she wants to play so much. Tyra always encourages the other players on the team."

It's also not uncommon for Buss to fire up 3-point attempts from NBA range. She understands that it doesn't always look good when she does that, but the sophomore can make those shots.

"I know it looks bad, but that's the only shot I can get most of the time," Buss said. "I would love to be able to shoot 3s near the line, but the constant double teams I face make that almost impossible."

Buss will use the rest of this season and summer to work on her mid-range jump shot. She knows that will benefit her greatly at the Division I level.

The Lady Aces (20-4) are ranked ninth in the latest Class 2A poll from The Associated Press, and Willis is enjoying the opportunity to coach a tremendous player like Buss.

"She has such great talent, and some people only look at her scoring, but that's really not fair to her," Willis said. "She's probably even better at handling the basketball than she is at scoring, and she does a great job on defense for us as well. She's the total pack-age and a great kid, too."



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