Malone Takes Leadership Role Senior Season
Feb. 16, 2018
Stoehr was leading the Northwestern State Demon program at the time and knew that Malone could be a huge piece of the puzzle to success in Natchitoches.
“I loved her aggressiveness,” remembered Stoehr. “She was not afraid to go grab a ball and yank it away from somebody. We wanted that. Sometimes players are passive. Sometimes bigger players are really passive. She was not. She was versatile.”
Malone led Oxford to the Mississippi state title and a perfect 33-0 record during her junior season and as a senior earned a spot on the Clarion Ledger’s Dandy Dozen team. The second team all-state honoree – who also lettered in softball, volleyball and track and field – peaked the interest of a number of DI teams, including Buffalo, Northwestern State, Kennesaw State, Austin Peay and others.
In all honesty, the 6-foot forward was probably two inches shy from being heavily recruited by Southeastern Conference programs.
Buffalo won the recruiting battle despite the full court press from Stoehr and the Demons.
“(Coach Brooke) was very adamant,” said Malone,” who will lead LA Tech into Saturday’s home finale against Southern Mississippi at 2:30 p.m.. “She would call a lot. When I went on my visit (to Natchitoches), she was telling me how I could help and how she could help me develop as a player. What I could bring to their team. They would send me drawings from Aubrey in the mail. It was cute.”
Stoehr’s loss in the recruiting battle would eventually pay dividends later.
Malone’s decision to go to north was for a number of reasons, including the presence of then Buffalo assistant coach and fellow Mississippian Bernitha Johnson.
“It was a new experience,” said Malone. “I wanted to test out the experience. I had never been that far away from home before. I felt like it was going to be a good fit for me. I had confidence in Coach B. She left from home for her college experience and she was a Mississippi girl and she was all the way up there.”
Malone, who mother Stacy was a two-time Kodak All-American during her playing days at Delta State, had a very successful freshman season for the Bison. She earned Metro-Atlantic Conference All-Freshman team honors after averaging 7.8 points and 5.7 rebounds and starting 26 games.
Her sophomore season was even better. She averaged 10.5 points and 7.7 rebounds while shooting 43 percent from the field. However, she wasn’t happy. Johnson had left Buffalo after Malone’s freshman season. And Malone’s best friend from high school, Briana Henry, who had followed her to Buffalo to be a manager for the women’s team, also left to go back to Ole Miss.
Things had changed and Malone felt she needed a new start too.
“My experience was a good one,” said Malone. “I had a pretty good first year. Homesickness was tough but bearable. Going into my sophomore year, I was like okay I can do this. I think as the season progressed, I wanted to see my family more. I missed having them in the stands. I felt like I could go closer to where they could see me play.”
So once again, Malone had a decision on where to go. Johnson had joined the coaching staff at Louisiana Tech so the Lady Techsters were an option. Northwestern State was also in the mix where Brooke Stoehr had led the Demons to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances.
But once again, Brooke Stoehr saw Malone choose another school.
Malone sat out the 2015-16 season due to the NCAA Transfer Rule. Following that season, the Lady Techsters program saw a coaching change.
The announcement caught Malone by surprise; albeit a pleasant one.
“I was like ‘This is meant to be,’” said Malone when she heard who her new coach was going to be. “When she got the job, I was like ‘Wow, this is crazy.’”
Despite the fact both parties were happy about the situation, the early days weren’t exactly easy for Malone.
“It was very difficult,” said Malone, who already earned her bachelor’s degree in general studies with a minor in marketing. “I had just learned a whole new style before they came here. It was difficult because they are really demanding, and they expect a lot out of you. I was like this is how I have always played so … We were just bumping heads. It took a while for me to get into the system and trust them. Trust takes a while to build up, but I am glad it did.”
“It’s been a joy (to coach her),” said Stoehr. “She would tell you that first off we didn’t get off to the best start because we had to learn how to work. She has made a tremendous amount of progress in that area. She has gone from not being one of our better practice players to being one of our most consistent practice players. It’s been fun to see her grow with her confidence in terms of being vocal and leading. It’s a reflection of how hard she is playing. It’s been neat for me to seeing comfortable in who she is.”
With four seniors on the team, Malone’s main responsibility during the 2016-17 season was her play on the court. She came through.
Malone saw action in all 32 games, making 25 starts. She averaged 11.5 points and 7.0 rebounds a game and scored in double figures 20 times. She helped lead the Lady Techsters to an 18-win season and the programs first postseason berth since 2011.
Conference USA coaches quickly learned what a difficult match-up Malone would be on a night in and night out basis.
“The thing that impresses me the most about her is just the high intensity and motor that she plays with,” said Charlotte head coach Cara Consuegra, who has seen Malone record three double doubles in three games against her 49ers. “Every time I am preparing for her and watching her on film I just think that kids plays so hard and really almost plays with a chip on her shoulder; that she has something to prove every single possession. I just personally like players like that.
“I think that is the reason why she is a great player in this league as much as any of her skill set. Speaking of her skill set I think that is a great advantage she has. She can be so physical in terms of getting deep position in the post. She has great hands. She can finish well. But she also has the versatility where if she can’t get deep position, she can make a move outside of the paint. She is just a really tough match-up for anybody to play a kid that has that type of ability to score in both ways.”
Following the season, Louisiana Tech saw its four-member senior class depart. A new role was in store for Malone as the lone senior on this year’s team. It would be one that didn’t come naturally at first.
“(Coach Brooke) said I was a leader, but I was like ‘uhhhhhh’ because I’m not vocal,” said Malone, who is three quarters away from earning her second bachelor’s degree in kinesiology and health promotions. “I don’t talk much. I usually just try to lead by example. That’s just by doing what I need to do. When it came to being more vocal, it was tough at first. I don’t like saying things because no one likes to be the bad guy.
“This summer was a really great time for me to work on that. It was difficult at first because I don’t like telling people what they need to do but because I see the game well. I see stuff in my mind. As the season has progressed it has gotten better. I feel like my voice is strong enough where they hear me and they respect me. They have also made it easy on me because they are a great team.”
Her head coach agrees. And is proud of the growth and maturity that she has seen from one of her star pupils.
“Her work ethic has been so cool to see develop with Lex being kind of quiet and more reserved,” said Stoehr. “Seeing her leadership develop and seeing her become comfortable in who she is as a player and who she is as a young woman has been really fun. Having our relationship develop over the last year and a half has been really neat.
“She is doing a great job of setting the tone. A lot of times we will say we go as Lex goes. When she is high energy and when she is communicating and doing all of those things, our players on our team just follow her. It’s so fun to watch. She is making the most of her senior season. She is going out with a sense of urgency every day. It’s been a great example for our players.”
Junior Reauna Cleaver, one of Malone’s roommates and teammates, has seen the growth of one of her best friends.
“She is a great teammate in every sense of the word,” said Cleaver. “When things go right, of course she’s cheering and so enthused about what everyone else accomplishes. Then, when things go wrong, she’s gotten so much better at speaking up. That’s a good thing. She demands that we better get it together. That’s huge for her because of how quiet she is normally.”
Her play has not be quiet this year. Malone has started all 26 games, averaging team highs with 13.8 points and 8.9 rebounds a contest. She has posted these numbers despite seeing double and triple teams on a regular basis.
“I think she has continued to get stronger,” said Stoehr. “She has continued to mature even from last year to this year. She has done a really good job of just being able to slow down and let the game come to her. I think she is a very good passer when she slows down. She has led us in assist to turnover ratio a lot of times during the conference season. That is so valuable to us.
“She has seen a lot of double teams. Heck, she has seen some triple teams and at times you look up and there are four people on her in the paint. She has handled that well. I think last year she would have become more frustrated earlier on but she has really grown in that area and that’s just a sign of maturity.”
With the sun setting on her collegiate career, Malone still has plenty to play for heading into the final three regular season games of the season. Tech sits in sixth place in the Conference USA standings and will head to Frisco, Texas for the league tournament in early March.
Regardless of what transpires over the next month, Malone said she is happy with her decision to join the Lady Techster family three years ago.
“(My time here) has been great,” said Malone, who has totaled 1,288 points and 876 rebounds between her time at Buffalo and LA Tech. “Of course we have had some ups and downs. I think my ups have outweighed my downs. I’ve learned a lot about myself. I have met some amazing people that I will always have. Sweets and Kee will always be my friends. Coach Brooke is such a great coach. She has pushed me beyond what I thought I could do as a player and as a person. They just believe in me so much, and I thank them for that.”
Brooke Stoehr has a strong belief in Malone.
“I know she is going to be successful in whatever she chooses to do,” said Stoehr. “She can communicate well and with anybody. When she sets her mind to something she is going to follow through until she is finished.”
With three weeks left in the regular season and postseason play still looming, Alexus Malone still has some unfinished business.
“We want her to enjoy every last minute she has in a LA Tech uniform,” said Stoehr. “We know she is someone we can count on. She is excited about this team and what we still have yet to accomplish.”
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