Illinois-bound Grant working to bulk up

SHARE Illinois-bound Grant working to bulk up

Jacqui Grant’s four-year prep career ended last week with a 54-42 loss to Evanston in the sectional finals at Loyola.

That doesn’t mean it’s time for Grant to kick her feet up, relax and reflect. Well, maybe for one weekend.

The Maine South senior center said she planned to be back in the weight room and on the practice floor on this week to prepare to play college ball for Illinois.

“I’ve already been doing things, but it will get a lot more intense now,” she said. “I want to be ready to go when I get there. I want to hit the ground running as best I can.

“It’s going to be a lot of hard work ahead of me, but I love what I am doing.”

In the weight room, Grant is looking to add muscle to her 6-foot-3 frame. Her lifts include the bench press, power clean and squats, “the classic strength stuff,” said Grant, who does most of her training at the Gottlieb Center for Fitness in Melrose Park.

“I need to put on some pounds,” she said. “I am getting ready to have that Big Ten look.”

Under first-year coach Matt Bollant, the Fighting Illini entered this week 16-10 overall and 9-5 in the Big Ten. They have two seniors, three juniors and eight underclassmen on the roster.

“I love taking on a challenge, and I am confident in myself that I can do this,” Grant said.

Grant won 94 games and four regional titles in her high school varsity career. As a sophomore, she helped the Hawks take third place in Class 4A.

“Going into high school, you never really know what is going to happen,” Grant said. “I was just a freshman, and I didn’t know what I was doing.”

Grant figured it all out.

“Jacqui had a phenomenal career for us,” said Maine South coach Mark Smith, whose team averaged nearly 27 wins over the last three seasons. “She was part of probably the program’s best four-year stretch, and we’ve had some really good teams.”

Grant ended her career second on the all-time scoring list with 1,522 points and second in all-time rebounds with 819. She scored a game-high 19 points in the Feb. 21 loss to Evanston.

“I knew what I needed to do this year,” Grant said. “I needed to be a leader. I came into my senior season wanting to be the best player and mentor I could be.

“We had another successful season. I hoped we would have gone farther, but you can’t always have it all. We gave it a great effort, though.”

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A perfectly terrible way to end a perfectly terrible week.