Kayla Alexander graduated from Syracuse three years ago as the women’s basketball program’s career leader in points, blocks and games played. But she left college without an important milestone on her resume: an NCAA tournament win.
Now, the Orange have climbed all the way to the Final Four in both the women’s and men’s brackets. As she finishes up her third season in Russia and enters her fourth with the San Antonio Stars, Alexander had to give a shoutout to her Orange.
By Kayla Alexander, as told to WNBA.com
Two Final Four teams? I’m on cloud nine right now. It’s a great day to be an Orange. I’m repping my Syracuse gear all the way in Russia.
When my old team is playing and I’m overseas, I call my parents, one of my old coaches, or my brother; one of them will have the game on TV and we’ll FaceTime so we can watch the game and talk at the same time. Last game, they were playing Tennessee, where my brother’s a freshman. We had a little bit of a sibling rivalry going on. We were going back and forth on Twitter during the game:
“May the best orange win.”
“Syracuse is the better orange — the real orange.”
“The best Orange did win.”
I feel like Coach Hillsman and the rest of the staff have been building toward this. I don’t think he gets the the credit he deserves being one of the best coaches in women’s college basketball. He pushes his players and helps them achieve their goals both on and off the court. It’s a great program with incredible facilities, and I’m proud of the fact that I received a quality education while playing ball. But on the court, we’ve always been in the middle of the pack, not at the top. The last part of the equation was getting the right players — players who wanted to come to Syracuse and make history. The girls I knew as freshmen who are seniors now are doing work and, yes, making history.
When the Class of 2016 came in, they made in instant impact. They were fearless and relentless. They didn’t care who you were; they were coming in to play and do their thing. Also, their work ethic immediately stood out. I specifically remember Brianna Butler being in the gym after practice, getting up shot after shot after shot. They all wanted to get better and be the best.
The team has improved every single year, starting with my four seasons. We were in the NIT for three straight years, then we decided we weren’t going to take the NIT again; we were going to the NCAA Tournament. My senior year, we finally made it. This run three years later is a testament to how dedicated these girls have been and how much they wanted it.
And my goodness, if I could see more Syracuse girls in the WNBA starting with this April’s Draft, that would be absolutely amazing. I feel like people don’t realize how much Brianna can do. Yes, she can shoot the ball; last game, she was hitting from Steph Curry range. But she can also create off the dribble, attack, defend — there are so many aspects of her game that people don’t know about it. Brittney Sykes is so athletic. Coming back from a knee injury, she’s just bounced back and hasn’t really missed a beat. She may have even come back more explosive.
I have confidence in them, but no matter what happens in Indianapolis, I’m just incredibly proud of how far they’ve come and what they’ve accomplished. Not too many schools can say they reached two Final Fours in one month.