From D3hoops.com/Andrew Lovell
The list of accolades forward Alexandra Leslie has amassed in her four-year collegiate career is as lengthy as it impressive.
Two-time D3hoops.com All-American. Two-time D3hoops.com East Region Player of the Year. D3hoops.com Rookie of the Year. UAA Rookie of the Year. One thousand-plus career points.
Those are just a few, and the list is far from complete with the Rochester senior only 11 games into her final season. It comes as little surprise, of course, that Leslie is the nightly focal point for opposing defenses. Stop Leslie and force her teammates to beat you, or so the logic goes.
The fault in that line of thinking is that Leslie is equally adept at setting up her teammates as she is at scoring. Double- and triple-teams by the opposition do little to phase her.
The 6-foot-2 forward tallied five assists in back-to-back wins over Thomas More, then ranked No. 5 in the country, and Liberty League contender William Smith back in mid-November. She was at it again in a solid road win over perennial NCAA contender Ithaca on December 12, adding four assists on top of a standout 19-point, nine-rebound performance.
"Coach (Jim Scheible) has tried in the past to motivate me, being like, 'You could drop 30 (points) on this team,'" Leslie said with a laugh. "I'm like, 'I don't really care, as long as we win.' It doesn't matter to me."
From the outside looking in, it's easy to wonder if Leslie might be disappointed with her production this season. And, in case you were wondering, she isn't. Her scoring and rebounding averages have dipped from 21.9 and 9.7 last season to 16.6 and 7.3 this season, respectively, but to focus on those raw numbers is to ignore what makes Leslie herself -- a deep desire to win and a driven purpose to help others along the way.
That purpose is the reason Leslie has regularly woken up at 5 a.m. on Christmas Eve morning since she was in high school to help other volunteers pack donated food from local grocery stores into boxes to be delivered to low-income families in her hometown area of Lancaster County, Pa. While most college kids spend their holiday break catching up on sleep, partying, or a little of both, Leslie has made the annual Lancaster County Project for the Needy gathering a part of her holiday tradition.
"What is sleep, in reality?" Leslie said. "You might lose four hours of sleep that night, but it's just one night."
Leslie said the annual event draws hundreds of volunteers and helps prepare close to 2,000 meals for people in need. Leslie was forced to miss this year's event for the first time since she started going in high school, but for good reason: she was helping her teammates at a Wegmans food drive.
In addition, Leslie regularly tutors students at local schools through the Saint Sebastian Society at the University of Rochester, helps coach kids at clinics held at the school's rec center, and has visited local jails to read books to inmates through the Yes Pa Foundation.
"Just as a whole our team, and I think a lot of people in my life, they understand that you can give more than what you have right now," Leslie said. "It's really important to give back."
"Realizing that you can help others and that you're in a place in your life that you can give," Leslie added, "and then just making sure you do give."
Leslie, a business major, doesn't know exactly what her post-college and post-basketball life will look like just yet, but she knows it will involve working with others. That could include basketball, at least in some capacity.
"Basketball has given me so much and has taught me so much that I could completely see myself wanting to stay involved in whatever way possible, whether it's volunteer coaching or coaching much younger kids," Leslie said. "It's all really awesome."
Leslie is the key piece on a Rochester team loaded with veteran returners, including senior forward Lauren Deming, senior guard Lizzy Atkinson, fifth-year senior guard Brynn Lauer, junior guard Lena Ethington, and sophomore guard Brenna James. Those six make up the core of the Yellowjackets' rotation, but senior forwards Jill Silvestri and Mary Kronenwetter also have years of experience. Add it all up and you have a team capable of another deep NCAA tournament run.
"For us, it's get to the Elite Eight, make it to the Final Four, and then you just play the best games you can and see what happens," Leslie said. "We definitely have high hopes this season. It's one game at a time, but I think it's very doable if just keep working hard."
Rochester advanced to the Elite Eight two seasons ago for the first time since 2009-10. The team returned to the NCAA tournament last season, but was eliminated in the second round. Rochester has reached the Final Four three times during Scheible's 18-year tenure, and Leslie is focused on adding to that total.
"When the game gets close, we don't get nervous," Leslie said. "We know we're going to win it. It's kind of that feeling, which is really awesome to have."