ABOVE: Shelbyville High School senior Ava Wilson is recognized for reaching 1,000 career points before Wednesday’s game against Southport. 

Maybe it wasn’t quite reminiscent of Whitman’s line, “I celebrate myself,” but what else was Ava Wilson to do? Her teammates and coaches were a bit distracted the moment last Friday’s game paused to commemorate her 1,000-point career. That’s because the officials recognized the accomplishment on the next dead ball, and by then, the opposing team had scored on a fast break, been fouled and were preparing to shoot the free throw.

“So, I’m mad,” Shelbyville High School girls basketball head coach Becca Hoefler recalled, laughing about the progression of events. 

It all worked out. The Bears won handily, and Wilson was celebrated appropriately before this week’s home game. They won that game, too, with another strong performance from Wilson, now just 38 points shy of becoming the fourth-highest scorer in program history.

The automatic stoppage of play shows the rarity of a player scoring 1,000 points in a high school career. Only seven Shelbyville girls players have achieved that mark: Kylee Edwards (1,563 points), Gretchen Haehl (1,418), Brenda Kelsay (1,374), Misty Smith (1,109), Wilson (1,072), Valerie Pilk (1,008) and Sharon Knecht (1,002). An even rarer feat is that it has occurred in consecutive years, with Edwards reaching the mark Dec. 28, 2022, and Wilson on Dec. 29, 2023.

“It’s really, really tough to have back-to-back 1,000-point scorers just for the fact that, usually if you have a 1,000-point scorer, the ball is in her hands most of the time,” Hoefler said. “In Ava’s case, both she and Kylee Edwards averaged around 20 points per game last year.”

Hoefler didn’t foresee this scenario when she started as Shelbyville’s head coach five years ago, Edwards’ freshman season and Wilson’s eighth-grade year.

“I knew Ava was going to be a good basketball player,” Hoefler said of the two-sport stand-out. “Did I think she was going to be a 1,000-point scorer? Not necessarily, but as the years went by, she has become unbelievably better and better. And it’s just because she works so hard at it.”

Before the winter season begins, she earns high honors on the soccer field, this year receiving The Shelbyville News Soccer Athlete of the Year award. But reaching 1,000 points in basketball wasn’t on Wilson’s mind until recently.

“I never really thought about it,” she said. “I didn’t know how many (points) I scored freshman and sophomore year, but at the end of my junior year, I realized I had over 700, and that I had over 400 in one year, so I knew it was doable.”

She credits her success and work ethic to her parents.

“They push me, but they’re not negative on me, which helps a lot. They’re always positive,” she said of Jamie and Michelle Wilson. Ava often shoots around on a backyard goal with her mom and younger sister, Lyla, who also plays for the Golden Bears.

Wilson also mentioned the value of playing with a core group of seniors, including Ella Johnson, Lilly Johnson, Lilly Marshall and Ellie Simpson.

“They’re my friends out-of-school, too,” she said.

While Wilson weighs her college options, the Bears are enjoying a winning season, with 10 victories in the books and plans to finish the final six games strong.

“I love this group of seniors,” Hoefler said. “They’ve made winning a priority.”