River Hill point guard Alex Vega doesn't get much attention, but she is a key contributor and anchor of the Hawks, who were 19-0 as of Thursday.
"She's the one who basically calls the play," coach Teresa Waters said of the junior. "She's the one, for the most part, who handles the ball most of the time. She leads the team in assists, guards the opposing team's best perimeter shooter and, though she doesn't take a lot of shots, she is one of our best shooters. Alex is selfless and very, very smart and knowledgeable about the game."
Vega, 5 feet 5, averages eight points and 3.8 assists a game. She has a 4.5 weighted grade point average over her first two years at River Hill and is a member of the National Honor Society.
Why do you play basketball?
My parents, I don't think they were much into sports, but they've been very open, wanting me to try everything. And I've tried everything from basketball and soccer to ballet. Dance didn't stick, but basketball and soccer did. I think it's just my personality. I'm really competitive. I have one older brother, Nicholas, and he played soccer. That's probably why I play that game.
You also play soccer here at River Hill, correct?
Yes. I'm a stopper on the soccer team, playing right in front of the sweeper. I've been on the varsity here for two years, and both years we've won state championships. I'd like to see our basketball team win the state's this year.
I understand in basketball you're a very selfless player. Can you talk about your role?
I do like to shoot the ball. I stay after practice almost every day to practice shooting for an extra 30 minutes to an hour. And in the game, if I have an open shot, I'll take it. But, for me, it's more fun to have the most assists. I guess I am selfless on the court. I love to see my teammates score. I'm the point guard; I'm supposed to be helping my teammates to look better. I don't get mad, even if I don't score a point. I like it when the other girls have 20-plus points, even if I have only five. When they score, I know I'm doing my job. Who knows if we'd have all those points if I didn't?
Your team beat Howard, a top county rival, [Tuesday] by 13 points, but you said you were a little sluggish in the first half and your team was down by four points at the half. Why were you having trouble early, and what happened to get you back on track?
I haven't been getting a lot of sleep. I take a number of accelerated courses and often I have a couple hours of homework for each of them. I was a little tired at the start. But after a good yelling at half time, we all picked it up. I got close to 10 assists.
How many accelerated courses do you take? And how much time to you usually spend doing homework?
I have two Advanced Placement classes, in which you can earn college credits, two of three courses for gifted and talented and one honors class, Spanish IV. On a good night I might have two hours of homework, but on most nights, like last night, it's five hours. I don't want to sound egotistical or anything, but I'd like to say my biggest gift is intelligence because it helps me in the classroom, on court; I'm analytical. I can and want to see how different actions result in different consequences. It helps me get A's in class. ... I may not be the smartest person in my classes - and being in the Advanced Placement classes, I'm not. But I try to work the hardest, and it's the same on the basketball court. Coach is always telling us, 'Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard.' Coach says that all the time.
What are your primary goals for now and the future?
I really want to go to a good school academically and be able to play basketball there. Princeton is my dream school. I don't really know why, but ever since I was a little kid I've wanted to go to Princeton. But I'm looking at a few other Ivy League schools too. And I think I'd like to be a lawyer or do something in business or finance. Ever since I was a little kid, my parents will tell you, I've liked to argue. I'm not very good at arguing with my friends, but at home I'm very good at making my points. I think being a prosecuting attorney or a defense attorney would be very interesting.
Where did you get that idea?
Well, as cheesy as this may sound, I've been greatly inspired by the book To Kill A Mockingbird. We read it my freshman year, and it really got to me and into my heart. I've read the book now a few times, and Atticus Finch [who risks his career to defend a black man wrongly accused of rape], he's a lawyer in the book and, he was very inspiring. This year, my junior research paper is based on To Kill A Mockingbird. My working thesis is how Atticus tries to overcome the racial barrier in his society, and I'm going to parallel that to how President Obama is trying to overcome that in our society today.
Your team is undefeated. How do you feel about its chances in the postseason?
I think we've really got a good chance to go all the way this year. We've never really been this close. We've got a lot of chemistry, and when we're on court, we just seem to know where each other is going and we really connect. It's a really good year. We're undefeated. Our record? I don't know. We try not to concern ourselves with that. It's about the journey. We go game-by-game. If we get through each day doing the best we can, hopefully our journey will continue to the state championship.