The Torch

A Journey Back Home

Natural leader Alissa Alston steps in

Torch Photo/Spencer Clinton

Torch Photo/Spencer Clinton

Isabella Bruni, Managing Editor

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For Alissa Alston, traveling and shooting from multiple  courts doesn’t make for a well-rounded player. Alston says it’s the effort and commitment put into the game that makes you great. Having taken her shots from New England, the South and New York, this player knows what she’s talking about.

Alston, a St. John’s transfer guard, started playing basketball as a 12-year-old in her hometown of New Haven, Conn. She has since taken her talents to the University of Mississippi and then back to the Northeast at St. John’s.

“The transition is a little bit different,” she said. “I was used to a faster pace. Going down to the South, I kind of slowed down a little bit.”

On deciding to leave the pleasant Mississippi heat for New York’s changing seasons, Alston said, “I like it back home, it’s a safe environment, an environment I’m used to. I felt this was [going to] give me my spunk and my confidence because my support system is here.”

And that support system is family — her own family, and the Red Storm family.

The redshirt junior’s first moments with basketball came during a bitter time in her life, way before she could taste that sweet love for the game. Alston’s brother had fallen ill with a kidney disorder, which prevented him from playing and finishing his high school basketball career. So at the tender age of 12, she picked up the ball for the first time.

“I felt like I kind of needed to pick up the slack for him to keep him in good spirits,” Alston said. “I needed to take on the task and keep playing and then I fell in love with it.”

And once that happened, she hasn’t stopped shining. Head Coach Joe Tartamella called her a “leader” on multiple occasions at St. John’s Media Day. Alston concurred that leadership was one of her biggest goals coming to play with Tartamella and the rest of the team.

With an impressive record up her sleeve, Alston was one of three players to average double figures over her junior season with 14 points per game. At Ole Miss the 5-foot-8 guard racked up 131 assists that season, making her good to sit fourth in the Southeastern Conference with 4.5 per contest.

Along with her strong offensive abilities, Alston brings a “dangerous defensive effort” that made her stand out, according to redstormsports.com.

“My goals here that I plan to bring to the women’s team at St. John’s is leadership, accountability and really a family-oriented environment. You know you try to give off that big sister vibe, give them that shoulder to lean on,” Alston said. “Leadership is the biggest part about it.”

Alston found that family element while working with Tartamella. “Our relationship grew a lot bigger once I started to feel that vibe from him,” she said.

“He gives off that father-figure vibe of wanting to make sure that you get it, understand it and that you are getting better and most importantly trying to help you accomplish your goals off the court,” Alston said.

Relationships like this with Tartamella, as well as her teammates, made Alston’s transition from the South to the North much smoother.

Redshirt senior Akina Wellere threw in the word “amazing” more than once, and more than twice, when talking about her fellow guard.

“She’s allowed me to compete with her and play with her, and kind of like find myself too as being a senior and continue to grow as a player and leader,” Wellere said. “She’s helped me hone in and split the leadership role on the team. As a whole, she’s an amazing player and an amazing person.”

With her three goals constantly in mind whenever she picks up the ball for practice, Alston said she can’t help but think about the opportunities that could follow in the city that never sleeps.

“This is New York, the mecca of basketball, so you see all the fans and all the crazy dunks, but down South it’s just fundamentally about basketball,” she said.

With her travels she’s seen a difference in the culture of the game, but the work ethic is what you put into it, she said.

“In New York for instance [it] is more of ‘create it for yourself’ and make a name and a brand for yourself. The South is more of a unit type of thing,” she said.

With her family-oriented values and drive for self improvement, it seems Alston has figured out how to hold onto that perfect balance for her future with the Red Storm.

Besides basketball? There’s nothing. That’s what is always on her mind.

“My thing is all about basketball so if it involves basketball, you know I’m around,” she said.

 

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A Journey Back Home