Watch just five minutes of a Greencastle-Antrim girls basketball game, and it won't take long for Jenay Faulkner to catch your eye.
Whether it's a pull-up 3-pointer after coming around a screen, a quick hesitation dribble before blowing by a defender for a smooth reverse finish, a spin move through the lane followed by a contact layup at the rim or a heads up steal or emphatic block on the defensive end, the sophomore guard with the headband and long braided ponytail commands attention anytime she's on the court. And one look at a boxscore will tell the tale.
After a strong freshman season put Greencastle's No. 4 on the front of every scouting report, Faulkner solidified her standing as the best player in the area. She was a stat-sheet stuffer for the Blue Devils, finishing the season as the team leader in points per game (17.1 – best in Franklin County), blocks (2.3) and steals (3.1). She was also second in rebounds (7.3) and assists (2.9). She is this year's Public Opinion Girls Basketball Player of the Year.
"Jenay is a once-in-a-lifetime player," Greencastle coach Mike Rhine said. "She's always had a great sense for the game of basketball. She wants the ball, and she has a will to win that not many players have."
Faulkner's sense for the game isn't by chance, and it doesn't come from natural ability, although she has plenty of that. It's the result of a girl who's had a basketball in her hand for nearly her entire life.
Faulkner got into basketball when she was 3 years old and grew up watching the game with her father, Troy, and playing with him all the time. Now, basketball is a year-round deal for Faulkner. She plays AAU basketball throughout the summer and goes to camps in the fall, all while playing goalkeeper for the Blue Devils' soccer team. After soccer season is basketball season, and after basketball season she begins practice for AAU.
She was at the gym practicing just a week after Greencastle's season ended. On top of that, she is still a big college basketball fan – her family, which is from Charlotte, is all North Carolina fans, although Faulkner took Kentucky in her NCAA Tournament bracket.
Faulkner said, "I really pay attention to individual players, how hard they work and what it takes to be successful at the college level."
"She sees the game a lot like a coach would from the sideline," Rhine said. "She's always been that way. She just knows basketball."
After averaging 13.5 points per game as a freshman, Faulkner became the centerpiece of Greencastle's offense this season. Not only was she the team's go-to scorer, she also ran the point at times and helped create open shots for a Devils team that relied heavily on the 3-point shot.
"My mentality definitely changed this year," Faulkner said. "It wasn't always about just scoring, because we have so many players capable of scoring, but I just wanted to lead the team with my play on the court."
On top of that, Faulkner also had a knack for making big plays in big moments. Trailing by five in the fourth quarter in the District 3 Class AAA semifinal against West York, Faulkner produced a steal and a score and followed with a 3-pointer to tie the game. Greencastle never trailed the rest of the way and went on to beat the undefeated Bulldogs on its way to the district title.
"Honestly, that game probably felt better than winning the championship," Faulkner said.
Then, in the Blue Devils' loss to Berks Catholic in the PIAA Tournament, Faulkner scored 10 straight points at one point in the third quarter that pulled G-A out of a six-point hole to tie the game heading into the fourth quarter.
"Jenay understands the big moments, and she wants the ball in those moments," Rhine said. "We never ran isolation plays for her, but you could see her turn it on and take charge for us several times throughout the season, and she wasn't afraid of that."
Despite all of her success, Faulkner knows she still has room to improve. She shot just 56 percent from the foul line and also wants to develop a mid-range jumper.
"She's needs that shot. A go-to shot," Rhine said. "She doesn't know what it is yet, but it's coming. It's all part of her progression."
And with Katie Gelsinger and Jane Herman both graduating, Faulkner knows that there will be even more weight on her shoulders next season.
Faulkner said, "I think our expectations will be the same for next year. Hannah (Crist), Meghan (Hirneisen) and I will have to step up, but I think we will be able to do that and continue this success."
Greencastle hasn't lost a home game or division game since Faulkner joined the team, and if she continues to progress the way she has so far, that could stay the same for the next two years.