Women's Basketball

Alexander breaks SU scoring record during stellar season

When Kayla Alexander laid in a basket with 1:03 remaining in the first half against Villanova, the all-time SU scoring record became hers.

But the basket also pulled the Orange within 35-33, and that was Alexander’s focus at the moment.

“Game mode,” Alexander said. “Game mode, trying to win.”

Although Alexander wasn’t quite able to push Syracuse past Villanova in a 64-59 loss Saturday, her six-point output places her at 1,791 career points, surpassing former teammate Nicole Michael (1,787) for first on the all-time list. The loss concluded Syracuse’s 1-2 road trip, and the Orange (16-3, 4-2 Big East) returns to the Carrier Dome on Wednesday night for a 7 p.m. matchup with Seton Hall (8-12, 3-4).

Although Alexander didn’t want to consider her accomplishment in a game day setting, she admits she knew she was close to the record before the Villanova game, even if only due to constant reminders from the media. Going into the game only two points behind Michael’s record, it was nearly inevitable Alexander would achieve the milestone Saturday. And she did.

Despite the unwillingness to think much about the record, Alexander said she is honored to have earned the distinction. But typical of the senior center, she was reluctant to credit herself for the historic scoring accomplishment. Rather, she gave thanks to her coaches and teammates, pointing out that she doesn’t score without their help and belief in her abilities.

“They’re the ones that pass me the ball,” Alexander said of her teammates. “Without them, this doesn’t happen. In my opinion, it’s a total team effort. I score because they give me the ball, and because they have the faith to always give me the ball.”

Alexander also credited the Syracuse coaching staff, led by seventh-year head coach Quentin Hillsman, for believing in her and helping her develop as a player since she arrived as a freshman.

For Hillsman, Alexander’s presence and character both on and off of the court are vital for team chemistry and success.

“You look at a kid like that and hope you can get those kinds of kids,” Hillsman said of Alexander. “Every time you recruit a kid, you want them to be just like her.”

When Alexander arrived at Syracuse as a freshman in 2009, she was simply looking to earn minutes and play well when she had the chance, she said. She quickly surpassed her initial expectations, leading the team with 69 blocks in 2009-10, averaging 10.8 points per game and being named to the Big East All-Freshman team. In each of her sophomore and junior seasons, she averaged 14.8 points per game, steadily climbing toward the record.

Entering this season 336 points away, Alexander came out strong with 19 or more points in her first four games. The countdown was on.

The 6-foot-4 Alexander didn’t even consider playing basketball until seventh grade, when another tall friend “dragged her” to a tryout for a REP – similar to AAU – team near her home outside Toronto. Although her skills were lacking, Alexander’s height advantage carried her onto the team.

“I had never touched a basketball in my life,” Alexander said. “I didn’t know what the heck I was doing. I was awful. If there was film of it, you would die laughing the whole time because it was awful.”

But coach Monique Kovacs, who told Alexander after the tryout that “you can’t teach height, but you can teach basketball,” kept her on the team. Alexander credits Kovacs with much of her early development, teaching her the game and the rules.

From that point, there was no looking back. Alexander was named MVP of Milton District High School in Milton, Ontario, after her senior season, and was off to Syracuse. Kovacs kept tabs on her former player and called to offer congratulations on the record.

“She hit me up,” Alexander said of Kovacs. “It was really nice. When she told me congratulations, I was like, ‘It started with you. It really did.’”

Michael offered congratulations as well, via Twitter.

For now, it’s back to work for Alexander and the Orange, as the team looks to avoid its first losing streak of the season against the Pirates. The time to enjoy the record will come, but that time isn’t now, Alexander said.

“I don’t think it’s really going to hit me really until senior night or something like that,” Alexander said. “Probably when I’m done with the season. But I would say that I feel really fortunate and blessed that this happened.”

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