Lone senior on the men’s basketball team, Lawrence Alexander, sits down with us to talk about the past, present, and future.
Taylor Braun sat at the post-game podium alongside his teammates moments after walking off the court with their school’s first NCAA Tournament victory. “It was supposed to be an iso (isolation) for Taylor coming out of the huddle,” point guard Lawrence Alexander told the media, referencing the last possession of regulation. Braun sat back in his chair reflecting on the team’s performance, acting like this win was anything but uncharted territory.
Alexander continued, “But I told him (Braun) if nothing was there, I will be on the right wing and he just gave me the bounce pass and I took the shot.”
Braun slowly leaned forward and spoke into the microphone, this time playing the role of reporter directing a question his teammate’s way. “And what did you say when the ball was in the air?” asked Braun in rhythm, as if he was throwing a lob pass to Alexander who was hanging in the air awaiting an alley-oop pass.
“Buckeeeetts,” Alexander said, prolonging the pronunciation like he would if he was joking with friends back at Logan Park, the location of his childhood basketball memories. The media room rolled with laughter, marveling at the soon-to-be NCAA tournament darlings.
The shot Braun and Alexander were referencing was the three-pointer that sent the Bison’s first game of the NCAA tournament into overtime against Oklahoma. The Bison eventually prevailed in extra time to win its first tournament game in program history led by Alexander, or more commonly known as “L.A.”
“I can’t lie, I still watch it to this day,” admits L.A.
The seniors on last year’s team were some of L.A.’s closest friends. He was happy he could help the seniors leave their mark on the program and hit a clutch three for his friend TrayVonn Wright, the one who took L.A. under his wing when he arrived in Fargo.
“I was looking up to Tray,” L.A. said last season. “I mean, I’m not going to tell him that now (laughs), but I was looking up to Tray because he showed me what to do and what not to do.”
After “The Big Dance”
L.A. is from Peoria, Ill., a town of 115,000 people, two hours southwest of Chicago and seven hundred miles from NDSU. He was brought to Fargo by former Bison head basketball coach Saul Phillips in the fall of 2011 and L.A. forced himself into the lineup from day one.
L.A. had a fruitful freshman season and his achievements were acknowledged when he was named Summit League Newcomer of the Year. His early success has led to a remarkable career, pushing his former coach into confessing his love for L.A. “He’s my point guard, and always will be,” Phillips said bashfully after the NCAA tournament victory. With L.A.’s big smile and shy demeanor, it’s no surprise both his teammates and coaches gravitate to their point guard.
Teammate Kory Brown was drawn to NDSU because of L.A. “He’s probably one of the main reasons I came here,” said Brown, who was hosted by L.A. on his recruiting visit. “He reminds me of myself; he’s a goofy kid. He’s serious when he has to be, but we hang out and do fun stuff all the time.”
Carlin Dupree was also hosted by L.A. during the sophomore’s visit, and Dupree said he sees L.A. the same way L.A. saw Wright, as a little brother.
Dupree grew up in a similar environment as L.A. His family was there, but there was little opportunity for a secondary education. “We didn’t really have much, you know,” said L.A. before practice after the team’s first road trip of the season. “We were both kind of on the borderline whether or not we’d get into school.”
Dupree attended Bay View High School, just a few miles south of downtown Milwaukee, Wis. Alan J. Borsuk of the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel wrote in November that several years ago, when Dupree was attending: “Being a Bay View High School student meant you weren’t likely to be getting a rigorous education.” Borsuk also said Bay View was “unsteady,” had a “troubled culture” and had a reputation of “safety problems.”
When Dupree left Bay View to visit NDSU, L.A. was straightforward with him. He told Dupree that Fargo may not seem like much, but what you gain from going to NDSU will last a lifetime. L.A. said he told Dupree during his visit, “Look, I’m here, I’m making it, come here and continue to work. Work hard every day and you’ll like the results.’”
Dupree took L.A.’s advice and earned his way onto the court amongst a senior-laden basketball team last season by filling a role off the bench. The highlight of Dupree’s season was his four points in overtime to seal the upset over Oklahoma and said he’s better prepared coming into this season.
“I look up to him,” Dupree said. “Anything he does I would probably follow him. It just kind of happened naturally, to be honest with you.”
Back To Work
Leadership is a trait easily seen in L.A.’s game. Sports pundits would classify L.A. as a shoot-first point guard, meaning someone who looks to score before facilitating within the offense. Averaging 11.7 points per game in his career and hoisting more shots than anyone on the team this season proves this theory. If you ask L.A., he says he got his scoring gene from his father.
“I talk to my father on the phone every day,” L.A. said as he explained how his father is the man who gave him his first basketball and introduced him to his first basketball blacktop, Logan Park. L.A. continued, telling the story
of his father’s playing days in California, when Lawrence Sr. scored 60 points in a game.
Big games run in the Alexander family and it showed when L.A. made four three-pointers on his way to a 28-point game on the biggest stage of his life in the NCAA tournament. When asked what his father thinks is more impressive: his 60-point game or L.A.’s game-tying three, he said with a laugh, “He (Lawrence Sr.) would probably still say his 60-point game.”
L.A. returned from his visit home this spring refreshed. “Going home gave me an opportunity to escape basketball and school and spend time with my family,” L.A. said. “It was very relaxing.” Going home also gave L.A. a chance to spend time with his father and said most of their conversation revolved around the game of basketball. They even watched the recording of the Oklahoma game together.
“He critiqued me to see what I could do better and what I could’ve done,” L.A. said. “My dad is my number one fan, so he’s going to tell me what I did right and what I did wrong. Just even his advice is so precious to me.”
L.A. has already taken his father’s words to heart and is hoping for a great senior season. He said he hopes to sign an agent at the end of the season and see where his basketball career can take him. But for now, he knows his focus is with the young Bison basketball team this season.
“I’m not a talkative guy, I’m the type of guy that leads by example,” said L.A. “That’s probably one step I’m improving on, being more vocal.”
L.A.’s contributions to the Bison basketball program will never be defined by a quantitative stat. He may have started in over 100 games and scored over 1,000 points, but he knows the real legacy he is going to leave on the basketball program.
The NCAA tournament run will always be remembered, and the lasting image Bison fans will recall is L.A. swishing a three-pointer, launching the Bison program into the national spotlight with one simple word to summarize it all – buckets.
“At some point in time, yes, I do feel like a babysitter (laughs). I knew going into this season I would have to step up and be more of a leader more than I was last year. Everybody has called me grandpa or old man around here so, I’m used to it now.”[/text_output]
“Yeah, like you said it’s pretty big but I think this is the most polished freshman class to come in since I’ve been here. We have Paul (Miller) who is playing well right now. We have Evan (Wesenberg), people haven’t really seen him play yet, but he’s probably going to be a big piece this year. Jake (Showalter) just shoots the ball incredibly. Spencer (Eliason) is taking a red shirt this season and he’ll pan out in a couple years, but I think this might be the most talented freshman class since I’ve been here. They have a great future.”[/text_output]
“Me and him have always had a close relationship, but people didn’t really notice it because Saul (Phillips) was there as coach. But behind closed doors, I can always go to his office and talk if I need something or if I need help going through something, he’s always there. So Dave and me, we just have that nephew-to-uncle relationship.”[/text_output]
“It was really nice. I kind of got the chills, standing out there and listening to the people out there cheering you on for the achievements you received last year. It was a good buzz and a chill moment.”[/text_output]
“Pretty much talk to them every other day. TrayVonn (Wright), me and him had a really close bond compared to anyone else. I talk to him most of the time. I see Jordan (Aaberg) everywhere because he’s still in Fargo, but everybody else I talk to every other day.”
What’s your plan after this season?
“Hopefully have a good season and I can hire an agent and continue to play professional basketball. If not, finish up my degree and try to find a coaching job somewhere.”[/text_output]