Sophomore upcomer hopes to build on last year’s improvements

first_imgYANA PASKOVA/Herald photoOh, what a difference a year makes.Last season, guard Akiya Alexander averaged a mere 1.4 points in 7.1 minutes as a reserve for the Wisconsin women’s basketball team.This season, Alexander has become one of head coach Lisa Stone’s first options off the Badger bench and has seen a great increase in her production — she currently is averaging 6.0 points in 22.6 minutes through the first five games.For Alexander, the development in her game from just a year ago has simply been a number of factors coming together over the offseason.”I feel I’ve improved a lot just as far as communication and just calming down, being patient as a point guard, being another leader on the floor for my team,” Alexander said. “Defense, offense, taking care of the ball more, just being patient and getting what we need to get done as a team.”Adjusting to the NCAA style of play wasn’t easy for the Evanston, Ill., native during her freshman year — especially getting used to the long and vigorous practices.However, Alexander feels she had an advantage over most of her freshmen teammates — a year of prep school at The Patterson School in Patterson, N.C.”I think I was a little lucky because my [prep] coach was actually a coach in the college level,” Alexander said. “Even though our practices were a little shorter than what they are now, he pushed us to the limit. Everything was intense and that’s what I’ve come to find out college is about.”Stone’s sophomore class as a whole has been turning heads early this season, but Alexander’s improvement from her freshman year may be the most surprising.Heading into this season, Stone knew she had a very composed point guard in Alexander, but questioned whether she could consistently bring that added dimension to the court every day.So far this year, Alexander has answered Stone’s concerns in nearly every game, particularly against Cleveland State and Hawaii where she recorded a personal-best nine points in both games.But Alexander points to her contributions on the defensive end of the floor as her biggest asset to the team.”I think my role is giving our team a spark on defense,” she said. “More because our defense leads to our offense so if I give my team a spark on defense that will just boost our confidence. Especially if we’re down, say we haven’t scored on this team for a while, just getting one stop at a time I think will help our team get into our offense.”While Alexander’s improvement this season has been a welcome addition to the team, it tends to sometimes go unnoticed. She backs up the team’s two best players in guards Jolene Anderson and Janese Banks.However, Alexander doesn’t seem to mind being overlooked.”I never feel overshadowed,” Alexander said. “Those are my teammates, we’re all one unit. I think that when I come in, I’m supposed to keep up the same expectancy level that [Banks] and [Anderson] were giving — just come in there and keep that same edge.”Clearly there’s a strong bond between this year’s sophomore class of Alexander, Banks, Anderson, Ward and Shari’ Welton — one that began even before any of them even stepped foot on the UW campus.”I was lucky enough to actually have a bond with Janese, Danielle, and Shari’ before coming to Wisconsin, I played a lot with them on my AAU team [the Chicago Hoops Express],” Alexander said. “And Jojo [Anderson], she just fit in. I got to know her over the summer, staying with her at the Regent, and we all just came together.”This tight relationship, Alexander says, is why the Badgers have been able to get off to a hot 4-1 start this season.”Everywhere I go you’ll see me with one of my teammates, all the time,” Alexander said. “I think we just have a tremendous bond and that’s why, I guess, we can play together so well because we know each other both on and off the court.”Even though she always puts the team above anything else, Alexander has one personal goal that she is hoping to achieve this season as she continues to improve.”My assist-to-turnover ratio,” Alexander said. “I just want to keep that where my assists are little higher than my turnovers. Other than that I just want to stay confident, stay focused and just to have success.”last_img

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