CARLYLE — The next stage in Paige Rakers' basketball career will bring a much different role than she's had with the Carlyle Indians.
Rakers won't be playing point guard at the University of Michigan, and she won't be asked to shoulder most of the scoring load every game.
"I definitely won't have so much weight off my shoulders if I'm not the point guard," Rakers said. "I always was a point guard throughout junior high school and high school on my school team, but my summer A.A.U. team is how I got recruited, and I was actually a shooting guard for them."
Rakers, the metro-east's scoring leader with an average of 22 points per game, has been selected as the Belleville News-Democrat's Class 1A-2A Player of the Year in voting by coaches for the second straight year.
Rakers' 639 points this season accounted for 36 percent of the Indians' total scoring (1,795 points).
"Her role on our team was to score," Carlyle coach Randy Voss said. "That's one of the things she did for us, and her other stats were pretty good, too."
Rakers also averaged 3.8 rebounds per game and led the Indians in assists with 76 and steals with 70.
"To Paige's credit, she's not one who wants the spotlight solely on her," Voss said. "She involved her teammates more than ever this season. She led our team in assists, too."
Every opponent went into its game against the Indians with the No. 1 goal of containing Rakers.
"I think people that play us realize that Paige takes a lot on her shoulders," Voss said. "When they play us, they try to limit her. I know it's a team game, but a lot of people realize that Paige is a pretty special kid."
Voss said the Indians saw a box-in-one defense in at least 15 of their 21 games this season.
"I probably got everything in the book, but my teammates always knew how to pick me up," Rakers said.
Rakers said her point total meant less to her than other things.
"To me, the scoring was never anything I was concerned about," Rakers said. "I take more pride in my defense and my ability to read my teammates."
Despite all the extra attention from opposing defenses, Rakers finished third in school history in career scoring behind Courtney Smith (2,975 points) and Laura Rudolphi.
"She's like 45 points short of 2,000, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that she's only played six postseason games in four years," Voss said. "I know somewhere in her high school career we had a couple of games snowed out, and I know there was another one we just didn't play for some reason. She played a minimal amount of games in her high school career, and I'm going to blame myself for that one because the last three years we couldn't get past Central in our regional. Of course, no one else has either."
The Indians ended up with 21-7 record this season, with two of those losses coming against Central and two of those losses coming against Class 2A state champion Nashville.
The Indians fell to Central 57-43 in the championship game of the Central Regional.
"This year we had a lot of talent, but we always get stuck playing the good team early on," Rakers said.
Rakers, 18, the daughter of Angie and Scott Rakers, is currently a pitcher for the Indians' softball team. She's also a standout in volleyball.
"I have one season left, so I might as well play," Rakers said of playing softball this spring. "I'll regret it if I don't."
However, Rakers already has an eye toward her college basketball career.
Michigan will graduate five seniors from a team that is currently 22-10 and has advanced to the second round of the NCAA Women's Tournament.
Rakers said there is an opportunity for her to have an impact as a freshman for the Wolverines.
"I'm definitely going to have to earn it, but I've talked to the coach, and they have a senior this year, Kate Thompson, and they're looking for me to fill her shoes. She's more of a 3-point shooter."
Rakers said playing last summer for the Addidas A.A.U. team out of St. Louis that also included Edwardsville's Emmonnie Henderson, Nashville's Erica Brown and Okawville's Megan Wienstroer should help her with the transition to the college game.
"If I wouldn't done it, I wouldn't have been highly recruited," Rakers said. "And, the competition level was an eye-opener."
Rakers, who has regular workouts with basketball trainer Brett Ledbetter, said she'd like to improve her strength, stamina and ballhandling skills prior to heading off to Michigan.
"I think I can improve on everything, but overall I would say my ballhandling because even though I'm not going to be a point guard, I'm still going to have to take care of the ball," Rakers said. "The people at the next level are going to be a lot bigger, a lot stronger and a lot more physical."
Contact reporter Steve Korte at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2522.