It didn’t take long for teammates and coaches to see something different in Lenée Beaumont as a senior.
The 6-foot guard was already a good player before last season, as she committed to Indiana women’s basketball last spring. She went through the offseason and entered the season with the recruiting process behind her, a weight off her shoulders.
Beaumont improved her game physically heading into last season, but she made even bigger strides mentally. From the start of the season, she came in much more aggressive and assertive.
That was evident as early as Benet Academy’s season-opener at La Lumiere, which featured UConn commit Ashlynn Shade. Beaumont took over that game, scoring 30 points and leading her team to victory.
Teammate Sam Trimberger said Beaumont’s performance that day sent a message to the rest of the squad that they were good enough to compete with anyone, with the IU commit leading the way. And it was emblematic of her mindset all season.
“She became much more of — we call it — a dog,” Benet head coach Joe Kilbride said. “She was hunting for herself and for others. That was kind of the difference. She’s always been a team-first kid, almost to a fault. This year, I think she finally realized that for us to be good, she had to be really aggressive. And she was, particularly in the playoffs when it mattered the most.”
That La Lumiere game set the table for Beaumont’s huge senior season. She led Benet to the IHSA class 4A title game, and took home Gatorade Player of the Year and Miss Basketball honors after averaging 18.8 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.7 steals per game.
No more holding back
Beaumont started working with a new trainer — Jeff Pagliocca, who works with NBA and WNBA players — in the fall.
She was already working hard in the weight room and on the court — she said she sometimes gets kicked out of the gym because she’s been there too much. Pagliocca helped Beaumont learn things about the game she never thought she’d need to know.
And he helped adjust her mindset on the court. With her skill level, she needed to understand that it was often in her team’s best interest for her to be a little selfish. That when she’d drive into the paint and draw extra defenders, it could open up even more for her teammates. That as a senior on her team, she no longer had older players to rely on.
Beaumont’s conversations with Pagliocca helped her see that. When she told him where she wanted to be as a player, he responded bluntly.
“He’s like, ‘Realistically, if you don’t start making these changes on the floor, you’re never going to get to where you want.’ Which is kind of scary. It’s just being straight up. But it’s what I needed to hear,” Beaumont said. “Sometimes in the past, I would be wanting to get everyone involved, so I would hold back at times. But I feel like that was completely changed this year.”
From that first game against La Lumiere, Beaumont looked like a different player. She realized Benet was relying on her to dominate, and she stepped up every night. She still got her teammates involved, but did so through her own aggressiveness.
That mentality change was as eye-opening for Beaumont’s teammates and coaches at Benet as it was for Indiana’s staff.
“Before, she was OK not being the main one. This year, she had to take that step up for her high school team, and she played with a chip on her shoulder. She played with a confidence and a swag where she was the best one on the court every night,” IU associate head coach Rhet Wierzba said. “That’s really good to see.”
Poise in the spotlight
Beaumont’s more domineering approach was on full display during Benet’s playoff run.
The Redwings earned the top seed in their sectional, and behind Beaumont, took care of business to reach the class 4A state bracket. She carried her team so much that, at the team’s postseason banquet, Kilbride asked if her back was OK. Beaumont put up 27 points with 14 rebounds in Benet’s state semifinal win, and she scored 27 again in a double-overtime loss in the title game.
“She was lights out in every playoff game. That’s what it’s about in my mind,” Kilbride said. “Great players are at their best when it matters the most. And that, to me, is what encapsulated her this year. She was at her best when it mattered the most.”
Although Benet came just short of winning a state championship, Beaumont relished the deep tournament run. She’d dreamt of playing in those sorts of big games in raucous atmospheres. And she handled those big stages with poise.
Beaumont was already an intelligent player — one of the many things IU liked about her. She reached another level this year by combining that high basketball IQ with her more aggressive mentality.
“She knows what the right play is,” Trimberger said. “I think she knows her own ability and what she’s able to do, and that helps her understand certain situations.”
Beaumont showed that in one of Benet’s biggest moments of the season. In their super-sectional game against Kenwood, the Redwings trailed 46-45 with 17 seconds remaining. And Beaumont created the big play. She passed out of a backcourt double-team, got open across the timeline, called for the ball, and made her move to the basket. She drew a second defender in the lane, and dished to a teammate for the winning bucket.
And here is the game winning play. pic.twitter.com/S2fNd4dydo
— Joshua Welge (@jwelge96) February 28, 2023
Beaumont was unfazed by the double-teams because she’d seen it so often throughout the season. Even before this big year, opponents were fully aware of her capabilities and threw everything they had at her. She routinely faced double-teams, triple-teams, box-and-ones, and all sorts of tactics. Beaumont recalled Carmel selling out to deny her entry to the paint at all costs.
The extra defensive attention frustrated her at first, but it forced her to adapt. And she grew her game further because of it.
“Just realizing as soon as I put the ball down, the open lane’s not going to be there; I’m going to be driving into a crowd,” Beaumont said. “Just being more patient and selective with my shots.”
Before last season began, Kilbride instructed his players to make a list of their goals for the season.
Beaumont’s top goal was for Benet to play deep into the playoffs. And under it, she wrote ‘Miss Basketball and Gatorade Player of the Year.’ But she was hesitant about those individual objectives. She thought she might be setting unrealistic objectives.
When she met with Kilbride to review her list, she said she’d understand if he wanted her to change those.
But he reassured Beaumont.
“Coach Kilbride was like, ‘No, this is perfect. Put these on (the list). We can do this. It’s going to take a lot (of work). You’ve got to bring it every game,’” Beaumont said. “He was definitely supporting me, and I appreciated it. And it was just being honest — it’s going to take a lot.”
That meeting fortified Beaumont’s self-belief and gave her lofty targets to aim for, pairing with her more assertive mindset. And she accomplished all three goals.
Gatorade Player of the Year was announced first, and that news arrived without much fanfare. One of Beaumont’s friends texted her congratulations, and she was confused because she didn’t get a call or an email about it. But she checked online and saw it was real.
But she found out about Miss Basketball in a memorable way. Beaumont came home after a workout, and Kilbride rang the doorbell. He handed her a Chipotle bag — an inside joke relating to an earlier bout with food poisoning — with a sign inside that read, ‘Congratulations, Miss Basketball.’
She’s not Benet’s first Miss Basketball or Gatorade Player of the Year — not even the first under Kilbride. Former Iowa guard Kathleen Doyle — someone Beaumont has looked up to — won the awards in 2016.
“It’s great for Lenée. She’s incredibly deserving,” Kilbride said. “I’m probably the most fortunate coach in America. I’ve been the head coach for nine years, and I’ve had two once-in-a-lifetime players now in that nine years.”
Kilbride also noted how robust Beaumont’s competition for the awards was this year and how strong a senior class Illinois had. The state has nine players ranked in the ESPN Top 100 — more than any other state. But knowing how good Beaumont was, Kilbride joked that he would’ve launched an investigation if she didn’t win.
Moving to the next level
In addition to her overall savvy, Indiana liked Beaumont’s diverse skill set.
She’s a combo guard with strong passing, shooting, and ball-handling alike. And all got better as a senior.
For Trimberger — having played alongside Beaumont for four years — her court vision is what makes her so good. Trimberger played in the post, and frequently received dump-off passes from Beaumont for easy buckets. That vision and passing ability set her apart, from a teammate’s perspective.
Beaumont is versatile, and — like fellow incoming freshman Jules LaMendola — can play anywhere from the one through the four. Kilbride put her in the post at times to combat the heavy pressure she’d face outside, and she excelled there, too.
Kilbride recalled her 21-point, 14-rebound performance in the sectional championship game as one of the best examples of that versatility. And he gave her high praise after that effort.
“When the best point guard in the state’s also the best post player, pretty good things happen,” Kilbride said. “The kids always talk about how many different moves you have. She’s got a big bag, but she’s just so good about using her abilities based on what’s needed at the time.”
Both Beaumont and LaMendola will come to Bloomington with a real opportunity to make an immediate impact. Indiana currently has four open scholarships, and the Hoosiers appear content with that heading into the season. That would leave them with 11 players, but a rotation they feel is full.
And that’s because the Hoosiers think very highly of their incoming freshmen.
“We probably could’ve brought in a couple transfer players, but were they going to be better than what we already have coming in as freshmen? We didn’t think they would,” Wierzba said. “We didn’t bring in bodies just to bring in bodies because we know we have these two coming in that we really think can help us.”
Beaumont turned her attention to preparing for college basketball once Benet’s season ended. She’s doing conditioning workouts IU sent her, and said she lifts four to five times a week.
She said the IU staff told her to get in the best shape she possibly could, and she’s worked towards that goal since then. Beaumont knows there’s a lot of work still ahead, both on the court and in the weight room, but she feels like she’s in a good position.
Wierzba and Kilbride agreed that Beaumont needs to continue getting stronger as she moves to the next level. They think her skill set is ready for college, but know she’ll have to continue growing physically — like many freshmen — to hang in. When Beaumont arrives at Indiana in June, building strength will be the priority.
But neither doubted Beaumont’s work ethic and drive to improve.
“The Big Ten is a rugged league. There’s so many big, strong, grown women, and she’s not a grown woman yet. She’s a young lady who’s still maturing. But skill-wise, mentality-wise, work ethic, I’m not worried about any of that. I think it’s just going to be a question of how soon is she physically able to withstand the rigors of the Big Ten,” Kilbride said. “I think she’ll do fine. It’s just a question of when she’s ready for that.”