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Shh, Big Mo’s really not so tough

At first glance, Morgan “Mo” Dean is pure intimidation when you line up against her on the basketball court. Make that, darn right scary.

The girl is tall, standing 6-foot-3, with an imposing figure. She often wears a scowl on her face which only solidifies a persona that suggests: Don’t mess with me.

That seems to be a front, however. She’s really a Jolly Green Giant.

On the inside, everyone who knows her away from the game will tell you, she is nothing like that. Big Mo is nothing but a big teddy bear, they say, with a big heart.

“She has a magnetic personality that instantly makes her a leader – both on the floor and off,” SBA coach Tom McGunnigal said. “She’s just a kind young lady, very sweet, and very sensitive. She definitely has a soft heart inside.”

St. Bede senior Lydia Stariha says Dean, whom she has known since the fifth grade, is nothing like the image she may appear to portray.

“She has a way of bringing the whole energy of the team up. She takes care of everyone and goes out of her way to be nice,” she said.

In fact, Stariha shares some Dean’s hidden talents that some might know away from the court, such as singing the Javert’s parts of Les Miserables.

Dean admits her image can’t hurt her game on the floor.

“It definitely adds to the intimidation factor. People see me, and they can be like, ‘Oh, I don’t know how to be able to stop her or whatever,’” she said.

At the same time, Dean says, “It bothers me, when people are always saying, ‘Oh, watch out for her, because I’m absolutely nothing like that. If anything, I’m just joking around with people. Other than that, I don’t really do anything too serious.”

Make no mistake, however, on the floor, Dean is a terror, a real killer. She played big for the Lady Bruins averaging 14.4 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game.

It’s a stat line that easily adds up to BCR Player of the Year honors for 2012-13. She becomes the eighth Academy girl to earn that distinction.

She was nearly automatic when the Lady Bruins got her the ball in the paint, shooting a blistering 63.75 percent from the floor. That’s no misprint … 63.75 percent. It would be hard to beat in the Academy record books and the IHSA’s, if it kept such a record.

“It was awesome. She works hard and is great at finishing. I knew if I could get her the ball she would score,” Stariha said.

McGunnigal described his senior standout as a “self-made, top-level player,” who made herself a name around the state.

Dean has been named as a third team all-state selection by the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association and the odds-on favorite to be named as the Lady Bruins MVP at Sunday’s awards night. There will be surely more honors to come when the final NCIC all-conference and other announcements come out.

The best part about the game of basketball, Dean said, is the sense of family you have as a team.

“You really grow close to that group of people. You can say anything you want, talk about anything. They’re always there for you,” she said.

The season definitely did not started off the way she expected with the Lady Bruins battling an array of injuries and uncharacteristically floundering beneath the .500 mark. But Dean said it shaped up good for her and the Lady Bruins by winning the regional championship and going on to reach the sectional on the heels of last year’s upset regional loss to rival Hall.

“The ending was bittersweet, but definitely the way I would have hoped for, especially after last year,” she said. “Last year’s team was definitely in the back of my mind going through regionals again. It was a little bit of redemption, not only for myself, but for them as well just to see a good team win.”

While she had initially expressed an interest in continuing her career at IVCC, Dean said she is hanging up her sneakers and just “be an every-day college student.” She will take with her a lot of good memories from her high school career.

“So many memories I can look back on now. People that I can talk to about basketball whenever I miss it. So many things I can do to relive basketball at St. Bede,” she said.

And they’ll be talking about her at the Academy for years to come.

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