Barbara Grainge's first interaction with Jessilyn Conicelli was not ideal.
was a freshman at
"It turned out she wasn't ignoring me - she was deaf in one ear," Grainge said.
The Eagles worked around it. Conicelli, now a senior, leads Arrowhead Christian with 20.5 points and 15 rebounds per game. She also averages 6.6 steals and 3.9 blocks.
"She's unbelievable," Grainge said. "She's a team player and she's humble and she has a great attitude. After every game our opponents come up and say how impressed they are with her. She plays with such heart."
And energy. Conicelli, a 5-foot-11 perpetual-motion machine, runs the floor like a cross country star, rarely standing still. It may be the only thing that keeps the standout center with the ravenous appetite so thin.
"I love eating," Conicelli said. "It's my hobby. When I go to a buffet place I'll eat like 12 plates of food."
"It's her metabolism," Grainge said. "If I ate that much, I wouldn't be able to get through the door."
Ice cream? The Eagles star likes so many different flavors that she can't even designate a favorite.
The popular senior also enjoys singing, working on yearbook and cosmic bowling.
But it's on the basketball and volleyball court that Conicelli really excels. And her non-hearing left ear hasn't been much of a hindrance.
"I'm used to it," Conicelli said. "If I wore a hearing aid, I could hear really high or really low pitches, but I don't think it's necessary. I think that I'm doing fine."
The Eagles' star had an infection when she was young and, at one point, had tubes sticking out of her ears. A scarred ear drum resulted and
Conicelli thinks that may be the source of her problem.
Then again her "problem" has been almost no factor during her years at ACA. She has managed a 4.3 grade point average, sometimes sings the national anthem before games and is talented enough in volleyball that she helped lead the Eagles to the CIF-Southern Section championship match.
Only a broken leg suffered by star sophomore Keriann Mason prevented ACA from winning the section title in volleyball.
The Eagles do have to compensate for Conicelli's hearing. When opponents set screens on her, she can't always hear opponents call out the screens or ask for switches, so that's a concern.
And when the ACA star speaks to Grainge or anyone at the small private school, she often has to turn her healthy right ear to the other person.
"It's become sort of a charming part of her personality," Grainge said.
"She turns her right side to people to hear them and they think she's really engrossed with what they're saying."