Aleshire shows true colors at Richmond

January 01, 1999|By BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Heather Aleshire's basketball career has been divided into two hemispheres.

The old half of her basketball world was like the tropics. In high school and junior college, Aleshire's shooting touch was so hot, it started brush fires. Most of the time, she didn't just lead the offense - she was the offense.

But her new habitat at the University of Richmond has been more like the arctic. The spotlight has been flicked off, and so has Aleshire's offense. Scoring hasn't been as vital or as prolific. Offensive prowess turned into defensive tutoring as Aleshire went from playing every minute to practically none at all.

After being so hot, Aleshire was left out in the cold. Now, there is a sign of a thaw.

Aleshire is now a senior with seasoning. In her final season of high-level basketball, suddenly she has found the best of both worlds.


The Clear Spring resident found her personal equator, where old scoring instincts and new defensive talents fused together, Monday when she scored a career-high 21 points and pulled down six rebounds in Richmond's 84-70 victory over Massachusetts in the opening round of the Terrapin Classic at the University of Maryland's Cole Field House.

Past and present crossed paths for what could become a bright future for Aleshire and the Spiders. It couldn't have come at a better time.

"Last year was tough," Aleshire admitted at the postgame press conference. "I was used to being the go-to person, and last year I found myself in the backseat. It made me work on my inside ... my character. But I learned to handle it, and it made me a better person."

And maybe a better basketball player.

Aleshire found herself lulled into complacency in the huge comfort zone of hometown heroine. At Clear Spring, she was "Hoosiers" and Michael Jordan rolled into one. Her performances were legendary as she became the all-time girls basketball scoring leader in the Tri-State area.

She decided to stay local and play for Hagerstown Junior College, with hopes of landing at NCAA Division I in the future. And Aleshire did her part by becoming HJC's all-time scoring leader.

Then, after more than 4,000 points in six years and two badges of immortality, Aleshire got what she wanted with a scholarship to Richmond. But it started out to be more than she bargained for.

"Coming here, it was a faster game than she was used to," Richmond coach Bob Foley said. "She was used to running with and playing against girls who were 5-11 and 6-foot. The things she got away with in Hagerstown, she couldn't get away with here. The speed and attitude made a big difference."

At Clear Spring, scoring was more important than defense. At HJC, Aleshire needed to play de-fense, but it wasn't high on the priority list either. At Richmond, suddenly Aleshire was on the de-fensive because of her defensive play.

"Defense was my weakness," she admits. "I needed to work at it. And the way we play defense, it took more conditioning than I was used to. The way to get to play was to run, or you didn't get to play. I couldn't focus on scoring, I needed to play better defense. It's a lot harder because there are so many other things to focus on and keep my mind on."

The new style made Aleshire an extra instead of a star. She played in 27 games in 1997-98, but never started and only averaged 10.8 minutes per game. Instead of her usual 20-plus points per game, Aleshire scored only 122 points for the season - a meager and unlikely 4.7 average.

Aleshire's senior season started the same way. She averaged eight minutes and 4.0 points as the Spiders started 1-4.

It was obvious Richmond needed a change, and Foley looked to Aleshire. Her character caught his attention and her work defensively and shooting kept it.

"She got into the starting lineup by accident," Foley said. "We needed to go to a bigger lineup. But it was her great attitude. She came from high school where she played all the minutes, and here, she wasn't playing many. Yet she didn't complain. She still came to practice. She worked hard and she always had a smile on her face. She never stopped smiling."

On Dec. 5, 1998, Aleshire was started at shooting guard and scored 12 points in a career-high 23 minutes in a 97-75 loss to Penn State. Aleshire started in a loss to Old Dominion and a win over Radford before Christmas break. Her 3-point shooting added a new dimension to Richmond's offense, as the Spiders managed more than 90 points in two of the three games.

Aleshire's new game got the big test on Monday. Starting power forward Carolyn Constantakis was knocked out of the lineup with the flu, and Foley elected to move Aleshire to the inside and start a smaller lineup against UMass.

The Herald-Mail Articles