Asha Alexander hopes CSU reaches high goals

dmitchell@ledger-enquirer.comJanuary 17, 2014 

Joe Paull CSU's Asha Alexander drives past Francis Marion University's Chelsea Dukes Friday evening at CSU.

You've heard the insult on the basketball court before: "My grandma shoots better than that."

That insult, however, was never about Columbus State basketball star Asha Alexander.

Sporting the affectionate nickname "Grandma," given to her by her teammates for her motherly demeanor and aching joints, Alexander is rounding out a successful four-year career for the Lady Cougars.

She has started all four years, been a reliable scorer and grown into a leader on and off the court.

Now, for her final act, she has big plans for herself and her team during the second half of the season.

"When I came my freshman year, I thought I'd be here forever," she said. "Now it's almost over. … I've got to be remembered. I've got to do something to be remembered."

For her, the goal is obvious: Win a conference championship, advance to the national tournament and make a run at a national title.

She would obviously be at the center of any form of success down the stretch this season. She is the second leading scorer on the team at 12.8 points per game and grabs seven rebounds per contest, as well.

"Four-year starters are rare," Columbus State coach Jonathan Norton said.

"Her AAU coach told me when I was recruiting her, she's a glue girl. She does a little bit of everything. That's what she's been for us for four years."

And that's what she's trying to be for the final 12 regular-season games, beginning today with Armstrong Atlantic (girls, 1:30 p.m.; boys, 3:30 p.m.).

Though her joints often ache, a result of her time running track -- she was an All-American at Columbus State as a sophomore -- she's leaving everything she's got left on the court.

"This is it," she said before practice on Tuesday.

"I tell Coach Norton sometimes when he asks how I'm feeling, I'm always going to hurt, but this is it. It doesn't matter in four months."

So she fights through nagging injuries, playing 32.4 minutes per game, second on the team behind Chatil Bradford (32.5).

She comes in before games and shoots until she makes 100 shots ("I need to know that, in the game, they're going in."). She leads her younger teammates, playing along with the "grandma" label, often interacting with them as a mother would.

"I feel like I'm their momma sometimes," she said with a laugh.

"I'm more vocal one on one, when it's personal. I don't do loud or crazy or anything, I just sometimes take them aside or text them later."

"She's not a rah-rah leader," Norton added.

"She's still a quiet leader. She's a motherly figure. She's encouraging. She makes you feel calm on the court. She makes me feel calm."

He's learning just how calm she can make him as he recruits a player at her position "like crazy" for the first time in four years.

He can worry about that when the season is over, though.

"We're just focused on winning right now," Alexander said

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