Players Of The Year

Girls Basketball

March 25, 2002

BJ Banjo

Mercy, senior

The BJ really stands for Bola Jacqueline, but this season, it also meant Backcourt Jewel.

The 5-foot-5 guard brought a wealth of experience, a dazzling offensive repertoire and a gem of a defensive game to her senior year, but it was her emergence as a leader that made her so indispensable.

Banjo simply carried the Magic as far as she could take them - to the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference tournament semifinals, a 16-10 record and the No. 5 ranking.

She consistently produced and continually encouraged her teammates, gently prodding them with her own desire to succeed.

"She really, at times, willed the team to where we ended up," said Mercy coach Mary Ella Marion. "The fact that she's not just a big scorer, the multitude of things she can do on the floor helped our team to be successful and helped the people around her to be better."

The Baltimore City/County Player of the Year and a second-team All-Metro pick last season, Banjo averaged 20 points, 6.5 rebounds, 4.2 steals and 2.2 assists.

In "The Game," the annual showdown with archrival Institute of Notre Dame at the Towson Center, Banjo scored 24 points - including four free throws in the final 21 seconds - to seal a 57-51 win. In the IAAM semifinal loss to eventual champ Archbishop Spalding, she had 27 points.

"BJ's the type of kid who can put a team on her back," said Archbishop Spalding coach Deb Taylor. "She can create shots for herself and because she draws so much attention, she can create easy shots for her teammates. When you're keying on her, she can still get 25 points."

In just three years at Mercy, she scored 1,299 points. Banjo signed early with East Tennessee State.

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