Pressley is Stars' big worker

LOUISVILLE — On a team full of All-Stars, it's hard to stand out.

Almost all the players on the girls' Kentucky All-Star team led their teams in most statistical categories. All can put the ball in the basket.

Chantelle Pressley of Paul Dunbar knew that coming into the Kentucky All-Star tryouts nearly two months ago. She realized that if she were going to make the team, especially in a region with Lexington Catholic's Natalie Novosel, she'd have to do a little something extra.

It turned out Novosel didn't try out for the team because of nagging knee issues, but that's far from the reason why Pressley made it. As she set out to do, Pressley did a little bit of everything to become Lexington's only player on the Kentucky All-Star roster this season.

“The coaches told me that I did a lot of the little things like boxing out, rebounding, talking on defense and just playing good defense,” Pressley said. “Of course everybody on this All-Star team can score ... but I just try to do the basic stuff. I'll dive on the floor for a loose ball when a lot of people would rather not. I'll sacrifice my body for the team.”

Pressley has continued to do the little things this week in practices at the Basketball Academy in Louisville in preparation for the two-game series with Indiana, doing everything from blocking shots, diving on the floor, even pulling down three offensive boards in a row at one point.

At 6-foot-1 — one of the tallest players on the all-star team — Pressley no doubt stands out. But it's been her ability to go the extra mile that has transformed her into a leader on a team full of all-stars.

“Chantelle's an amazing leader,” said Sally Zimmerman, coach of the Kentucky all-stars. “She's vocal and she gets everybody involved. When nobody is talking, she's the one to speak up.”

That leadership led Dunbar to a 30-3 record last season, even topping out at No. 1 in the state rankings at one point. Dunbar ultimately fell short of making the Sweet Sixteen, losing to a hot Henry Clay team in the 11th Region semifinals, but it wasn't because of a lack of production from Pressley.

She averaged 11.3 points and 5.5 rebounds per game during her senior season and was an honorable mention on the All-State team.

Pressley is headed to Eastern Illinois next year alongside Dunbar teammate Pilar Walker. She received interest from Illinois-Chicago and College of Charleston (S.C.), but chose the Panthers because of Brady Sallee's coaching philosophy.

Zimmerman thinks Pressley will be successful at the next level because of her versatility and athleticism.

“If she gets stronger, she's got a lot going for her,” said Zimmerman, Shelby County's head coach.

Pressley is just the second player in Dunbar's history to make this girls' all-star team, and the only girl this year from the 11th Region.

“My coach (Dunbar's Mike Sowers) talked to me and was like, ‘You have to represent our region,'” Pressley said. “It kind of gives me a chip on my shoulder that I am the only person from Lexington and that there's a lot of Louisville girls. I have to represent Lexington well.”