On Jan. 5, 2020, Lenee Beaumont and some of her Benet teammates were watching former star Kathleen Doyle lead Iowa to a victory against Northwestern at Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston.
Beaumont, a freshman at the time, was in line at a concession stand when someone pointed at the court and told her that she could play Big Ten basketball one day.
Beaumont didn’t believe it.
“Freshman year I started to actually think college basketball was a legit option for me from what my coaches were telling me,” she said. “But I would say Power Five basketball really clicked for me probably the summer after my sophomore year, just because that’s when my recruitment started to blow up.”
Beaumont, who committed to Indiana in April, will play in the Big Ten, just like her idol, Doyle, did. She has never met Doyle, who plays professionally overseas, but watched the 2016 Ms. Basketball of Illinois lead the Redwings to two state championships.
“I was in grade school, and my mom and dad would come home late from work, and we’d go straight to the Benet game,” Beaumont said. “Literally every little thing she was doing, I was watching.
“I’d try to practice her moves in my driveway. From the state game, I remember her doing a Euro step, and at the time I had no idea what that was, so I would practice it.”
Beaumont, a 6-foot senior guard, is constantly practicing. Last season she helped the Redwings (30-5) finish fourth in Class 4A, averaging 14.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.7 steals.
Benet coach Joe Kilbride said Beaumont is more physically gifted than Doyle.
“Lenee is a very well-rounded basketball player,” Kilbride said. “Her skill set is elite. She’s got a big bag of tricks, as they say, probably the biggest bag of tricks of anybody I’ve ever coached.”
But there is one thing Doyle had that Beaumont has yet to match.
“Kathleen was a very special player, and her competitive will to win was exceptional,” Kilbride said. “She was ice cold. Both of them are very unselfish and want to play the game the right way, which is great.
“What Kathleen figured out was how to be unselfish and still go for the jugular. Lenee is learning that, and I think she’s making strides there. That’s sort of a big thing for her this year.”
Indeed, Beaumont will be Benet’s alpha for the first time following the graduation of center Morgan Demos, a freshman at Navy. More is expected — and needed — from her this season.
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“I’m super excited,” Beaumont said. “It’s obviously very different, but I think I’ve been prepared for it throughout the years because coach Kilbride has constantly been on me about trying to be that leader, not only by your actions but by your words too.”
Kilbride likes what he has seen so far from Beaumont, who is happy with her progress.
“I do think I did a much better job, especially in our fall open gym,” Beaumont said. “If we’re losing, I’m going to go down and make sure we get the lead back.”
The Redwings don’t have as much size as they’ve had in recent seasons, but the size of their expectations remain the same. They want to go back to the state.
“That’s my main goal,” Beaumont said. “Last year we went into the season just wanting to be the best we can possibly be.
“It was never like, ‘OK, we’re winning state.’ Because it’s such a long season, you can’t look that far ahead. I want to at least make it back down there and take care of business once we’re at Redbird Arena. But you’ve got to go day by day.”
Matt Le Cren is a freelance reporter for the Naperville Sun.