BETA

Star basketball player dedicated year's effort to comotose brother

For her basketball accomplishments during this school year, Becky Clayton was named Illinois "Player of the Year" in the small-school division and `Co-Player of the Year" in both the small- and large-school balloting.

Becky, a Laurel in the Mattoon, Ill., Ward, had dedicated the 1990-91 basketball season to her older brother, Jeff.Jeff has been in a coma since March 5, 1986, when he received a 10,000-volt electrical charge in a construction accident near Tucson, Ariz.

In the last five years Jeff has spent most of his time in a hospital bed in the family's front room. At times though, he is able to sit up in a chair.

His needs are met by the family in a routine supervised by his sister, Jackie, a registered nurse with a master's degree in critical care.

The accident has drawn the family close together and inspired them to go to the Chicago temple to be sealed.

Bolstered by her personal committment, Becky led Sullivan High School to a spotless 35-0 season, as the team won the Illinois Class A championship. The 6-foot center, who started every game during her four-year high school career, is the only Latter-day Saint among the 330 students at the school.

The Lady Redskins had extra incentive to win the state championship this year. Last season they were beaten out by one point by the team that eventually won the state crown. So that was a factor that made all the team members turn up their intensity level to win the close ones.

Becky was, as she had been the previous season, the team's inspirational leader. Her coach, Scott Thomas, pointed out that, "Becky set the tone for every game. She was always positive and helped us keep things in perspective. While we wanted to win, it was perhaps more important that we realize the quality of the journey through the season was just as significant as the destination itself."

Therefore, a spiritual note was reinforced at every game when Becky, as the team's chaplain, led the coaches and girls in prayer.

After the championship game, Becky knew her top priority. When she got home that night, she found Jeff sitting up in a chair. She quietly slipped her championship medallion around his neck and whispered, "This was for you, Jeff."

More honors are coming Becky's way. She is a likely candidate for the nation's All American high school girl's team. And the Chicago Tribune carried a story naming Becky "one of the top ten recruits in the nation."

DePaul's coach Doug Bruno narrowed that list considerably: He considered her one of the "top two high school prospects in the country."

Scores of nationally ranked women's basketball programs were set to lure her to their colleges. But early in the season Becky decided to stay in Illinois to be close to her family. Next season she'll be playing for the Lady Westerwinds of Western Illinois University.

Those who know her best are confident that she will continue to make a tremendous impact, both on and off the court.

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