Vilonia basketball bright with Hightower

by Levi Gilbert

The future of basketball at Vilonia High School is looking bright, and talented freshmen like Abby Hightower keep feeding the flames of excitement. Vilonia is fresh off a semi-final appearance in the 5A state playoffs, and Hightower looks to keep Vilonia in the hunt throughout the rest of her high school career.

“Abby can play in the post or step outside to hit the 3,” said Kirk McDonald, Vilonia’s junior high Lady Eagles coach. “She’s very versatile. Abby is a great player who is very unselfish with the basketball and strives to help her teammates score. When she is in the game, she is the type of player who makes all her teammates better.”

Hightower helped lead the junior high squad to a 22-5 season, finishing 10-3 in the Junior High River Valley conference. The Lady Eagles finished as conference tournament champions.

“Abby was our captain and leader of our team this year,” McDonald said. “This year was Vilonia’s first tournament championship since 2000.”

The tournament win was a career highlight for Hightower.

“It meant everything to me [to win the tournament] because it showed how hard work pays off,” Hightower said. “We wanted it more than anything because it hasn’t been done in quite a few years. It was also very special because it was coach McDonald’s first year as a head coach. We couldn’t have done it without the support from our family, fans and Vilonia community!”

After winning the tournament, Hightower joined the high school squad as a freshman. She’s looking forward to being a member of the senior high Lady Eagles full time next year.

“I’m looking forward to the challenge of playing with older girls and learning everything I can from coach Riley to become a better basketball player,” Hightower said. “I’m also looking forward to going after that state title again!”

Hightower maintains a unique focus on the court zeroed in directly on her teammates.

“It’s always a challenge to convince all of my teammates that each of them are important and have a specific job in order for us to become the best team we can be,” Hightower said.

The freshman forward got started with basketball at an early age, and like many in the 501, she was motivated to play by watching an older sibling.

“I’ve been playing since first grade when coach Jeff Gray decided to start teaching a group of girls the fundamentals of basketball,” Hightower said. “I watched my older sister, Ashlyn, play, and it looked like a lot of fun, so I wanted to give it a try.”

Hightower is one busy freshman, juggling class work, practices and games, as well as volleyball, softball and track at Vilonia.  

“Abby is an excellent student in the classroom and role model for all the younger Lady Eagles,” McDonald said. “Abby is a caring and helping friend to all her classmates at Vilonia Junior High. She is an active member of Friendship Baptist Church in Vilonia. She has also volunteered at Vilonia Elementary to read to students.”

When she’s not on a court or field for Vilonia, Hightower is active throughout the 501.

“I enjoy hunting and fishing with my dad, hanging out with my sister and best friends and shopping with my mom,” Hightower said. “[I love] the closeness of our community. Everyone takes care of each other like family.”