Grayslake Central sophomore Annie Wolff plays multiple positions in multiple sports.
A varsity player from the get-go in both basketball and softball, the 5-foot-6 Wolff credits her rapid rise to her versatility.
“I’m a utility player on my travel softball team and can play any position,” she said. “I know every position in softball. But for basketball, it’s a little harder of an adjustment switching positions. Whatever positions coaches give me, I try to be as physical as I can. I try my hardest.”
Grayslake Central girls basketball coach Steve Ikenn gushes with pride discussing Wolff’s hard-nosed, team-first attitude on the court. She’s averaging 8.0 points and 6.1 rebounds, helping the Rams (5-5) engineer a turnaround after a 1-5 start against a tough schedule.
“Annie’s one of the most positive kids on the team,” Ikenn said. “She’s also one of those high-energy kids on the court and does everything full-tilt. She plays whatever role we need her to do. She doesn’t back away from any challenge, is a great teammate and always comes in with a smile and wants to get at it.
“She starts at wing for us, also playing point guard when needed. She played post on Friday against Antioch because we had a couple of injuries. She’s kind of fearless.”
The Rams’ game against district rival Grayslake North on Dec. 2 illustrated Wolff’s approach. She guarded senior forward Peyton Gerdes for the majority of the game. Gerdes, a High Point recruit, is a physical force capable of scoring from anywhere and can dominate in the paint.
Wolff, who had 10 points and 12 rebounds while leading the Rams to a 48-33 win, said she gained a new perspective.
“Peyton, in general, is an absolute beast,” Wolff said. “She pushed me to be a better player. I already feel more confidence in myself as a player because I could guard her. I picked up so many things that game. Peyton didn’t know, but she was teaching me to push myself more physically and mentally. … Guarding Peyton was the hardest thing mentally and physically I’ve ever done before.”
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Ikenn said Wolff’s desire to win is a big factor in her success. She had 12 rebounds twice this season and finished with 12 points and seven rebounds in a 50-36 win against Antioch on Friday. That was the Rams’ fourth straight victory.
Ikenn said he wasn’t worried about Wolff assuming a leadership role this season. She is one of only three returnees, along with senior guard Katie Dinsmore and sophomore Madison Hoffmann, after the Rams graduated nine players.
“I haven’t asked Annie to do it, but she naturally stepped up and became a leader,” Ikenn said. “She’s grown into the role. She’s strong vocally in terms of what the team needs.”
Wolff said she has stuck to her philosophy of helping the team win by playing any role possible.
“I’ve always been an extremely physical and aggressive player, even for my size,” she said. “I like to get rebounds, box out. I’m sure the bigger girls wonder how I’m doing it. When coach asks me to help out at post, I know I’ll be fine. I’m a physical enough player to handle the bigger girls. They don’t expect a 5-foot-6 girl to go in and mess around.
“Whatever my coaches want or the situation in the game brings up, I want to win that game. That’s my goal. Winning is fun.”
Bobby Narang is a freelance reporter for the News-Sun.