After winning back-to-back state championships, Millennium High School’s girls basketball team is in a transition period.
They have a new coach, a young team comprised mostly of sophomores, and one very interesting freshman.
“There’s some pressure, but honestly it’s kind of fun,” Elli Guiney said. “Because you get to come up (in a program) with a ton of success, it’s a very competitive environment where every single day you’re getting pushed, so that just helps you get better every single day.”
Still just 14, Elli has become an instant leader for the Tigers, averaging a team-high 13.4 points. After defeating Williams Field 50-41, Millennium continues its playoff run on March 17 at Verrado.
“I think she’s just versatile,” said Millennium coach Kevin Thomas.
“She can post up, she can play the point guard if she needed to, she can shoot really well. Literally, name a thing in the game. Obviously she has room to improve, but she’s just a good basketball player, period. And for her size, to be able to do all that, it makes her different.”
Listed at 5 feet, 10 inches, Elli is not only one of the tallest players on the team but also one of the biggest voices in the locker room.
“She does have a height advantage over many people,” sophomore Mia Amundsen said. “She’s (also) a good communicator and a good leader. She is always vocal, using her words in a positive way, trying to get her teammates to do the best that they can.”
“With Elli, you don’t know what you’re going to get,” said senior Kassidy Dixon. “She comes in with a bunch of energy, and it’s great having her around. She’s a good person on and off the court, and when it’s game time, she’s always ready to play and always excited for her teammates, so it’s really nice to have her around.”
As a first-year coach, Thomas said having a player like Elli, who brings the team together, helps keep things in perspective.
“She’s a bubbly kid who likes to have fun and give her teammates a hard time,” Thomas said. “(The players are) having fun, they’re making TikTok videos, whatever it is. She just has a fun personality, she’s a fun kid, and she’s a goofball and likes to joke around, so it makes for a good time when Elli’s around.”
Her fearlessness on court is another reason why Elli has earned so much respect.
“I feel like she’s not afraid to go at anyone,” Dixon said. “Despite her being a freshman. She’s not afraid to attack anybody, go at anybody, score when she needs to score, and she’s a key (piece) to our team.”
For Thomas, that versatility in Elli’s game is what makes her special.
“The nice thing about Elli is that she’ll do whatever we need her to do,” Thomas said. “Scoring is something that we’ve counted on her to do, but defensively, we can put her on (the opponent’s) best scorer, we can put her on a post player, we can put her on a point guard, we can put her on anybody.
“We can ask her to do anything, and she’ll be able to find a way. She essentially embodies a wide range of things that you want in any player, and she does a good job of that. Especially for a freshman, it’s impressive.”
Elli attributes her success to her ability to read the game as it happens.
“I think my strength is just my vision, because I feel like I can see the plays a little faster and can hit my teammates when they’re open,” Elli said.
“If I see a lane, I know what I’m going to do and take it.”
The team is confident in its ability to earn a title.
“I believe in the girls,” Thomas said. “We’re at a point now where we’ve lost a couple games, but in each of those games, we’re finding out more about what we need to do to get over that hump. There is lot of pressure that comes with the back-to-back state titles scenario, but we know that (a third title) is within the realm of possibility if we do our job and if we play together and if we come together and believe in each other.”
Elli said the team is confident, but the young women are taking it one day at a time.
“We’re just trying to get better, win every game, and then I guess (if we) keep winning, (another title is) what we’ll get,” she said.
Even as a freshman, she sets the bar high. She is driven to reach her goals.
“I definitely want to have a great high school career and get to play college, and then after that, if I can play pros, I would definitely love to,” Elli said. “After that, I would like to do some sports broadcasting and coaching.
“I just want to make the world a better place, you know? Even if it’s just impacting people that I know right now, who knows, it could help their lives in the long run.”