What drives Alexandra Leslie?

More news about: Rochester
While her numbers have dipped this season, Leslie remains a double-double machine and the focal point of opposing defenses.
Rochester Athletics photo


The list of accolades forward Alexandra Leslie has amassed in her four-year collegiate career is as lengthy as it impressive.

Two-time D3hoops.com All-American. Two-time D3hoops.com East Region Player of the Year. D3hoops.com Rookie of the Year. UAA Rookie of the Year. One thousand-plus career points.

Those are just a few, and the list is far from complete with the Rochester senior only 11 games into her final season. It comes as little surprise, of course, that Leslie is the nightly focal point for opposing defenses. Stop Leslie and force her teammates to beat you, or so the logic goes.

Leslie knows she doesnt' need to dominate, as long as she can help her team win.
Rochester Athletics photo

The fault in that line of thinking is that Leslie is equally adept at setting up her teammates as she is at scoring. Double- and triple-teams by the opposition do little to phase her.

The 6-foot-2 forward tallied five assists in back-to-back wins over Thomas More, then ranked No. 5 in the country, and Liberty League contender William Smith back in mid-November. She was at it again in a solid road win over perennial NCAA contender Ithaca on December 12, adding four assists on top of a standout 19-point, nine-rebound performance.

"Coach (Jim Scheible) has tried in the past to motivate me, being like, 'You could drop 30 (points) on this team,'" Leslie said with a laugh. "I'm like, 'I don't really care, as long as we win.' It doesn't matter to me."

From the outside looking in, it's easy to wonder if Leslie might be disappointed with her production this season. And, in case you were wondering, she isn't. Her scoring and rebounding averages have dipped from 21.9 and 9.7 last season to 16.6 and 7.3 this season, respectively, but to focus on those raw numbers is to ignore what makes Leslie herself -- a deep desire to win and a driven purpose to help others along the way.

That purpose is the reason Leslie has regularly woken up at 5 a.m. on Christmas Eve morning since she was in high school to help other volunteers pack donated food from local grocery stores into boxes to be delivered to low-income families in her hometown area of Lancaster County, Pa. While most college kids spend their holiday break catching up on sleep, partying, or a little of both, Leslie has made the annual Lancaster County Project for the Needy gathering a part of her holiday tradition.

"What is sleep, in reality?" Leslie said. "You might lose four hours of sleep that night, but it's just one night."

Leslie said the annual event draws hundreds of volunteers and helps prepare close to 2,000 meals for people in need. Leslie was forced to miss this year's event for the first time since she started going in high school, but for good reason: she was helping her teammates at a Wegmans food drive.

In addition, Leslie regularly tutors students at local schools through the Saint Sebastian Society at the University of Rochester, helps coach kids at clinics held at the school's rec center, and has visited local jails to read books to inmates through the Yes Pa Foundation.

"Just as a whole our team, and I think a lot of people in my life, they understand that you can give more than what you have right now," Leslie said. "It's really important to give back."

"Realizing that you can help others and that you're in a place in your life that you can give," Leslie added, "and then just making sure you do give."

Leslie, a business major, doesn't know exactly what her post-college and post-basketball life will look like just yet, but she knows it will involve working with others. That could include basketball, at least in some capacity.

"Basketball has given me so much and has taught me so much that I could completely see myself wanting to stay involved in whatever way possible, whether it's volunteer coaching or coaching much younger kids," Leslie said. "It's all really awesome."

Leslie is the key piece on a Rochester team loaded with veteran returners, including senior forward Lauren Deming, senior guard Lizzy Atkinson, fifth-year senior guard Brynn Lauer, junior guard Lena Ethington, and sophomore guard Brenna James. Those six make up the core of the Yellowjackets' rotation, but senior forwards Jill Silvestri and Mary Kronenwetter also have years of experience. Add it all up and you have a team capable of another deep NCAA tournament run.

"For us, it's get to the Elite Eight, make it to the Final Four, and then you just play the best games you can and see what happens," Leslie said. "We definitely have high hopes this season. It's one game at a time, but I think it's very doable if just keep working hard."

Rochester advanced to the Elite Eight two seasons ago for the first time since 2009-10. The team returned to the NCAA tournament last season, but was eliminated in the second round. Rochester has reached the Final Four three times during Scheible's 18-year tenure, and Leslie is focused on adding to that total.

"When the game gets close, we don't get nervous," Leslie said. "We know we're going to win it. It's kind of that feeling, which is really awesome to have."

The Yellowjackets are 10-1 entering UAA conference play this weekend, with their only loss coming on the road against last season's national runner-up, Tufts.

Alfred men improve to 8-2

After going 19-8 in head coach Russell Phillips's first season at the helm, the Saxons have gone 10-15 in each of the last two seasons. If the first half of this season is any indication, Alfred appears on track to reverse that trend.

The Saxons have opened the 2017-18 season by winning eight of their first 10 games, including their Empire 8 opener Tuesday night against Houghton. Junior guard Dom LeMorta continued, the Saxons' leading scorer, continued his breakout season in the 90-82 win over the Highlanders, pouring in a career-high 30 points on 10-of-13 shooting (including 5-for-5 from 3-point range).

Alfred will face a stiffer test this weekend with home games against Hartwick and Stevens on Friday and Saturday, respectively. Those results will tell us more about the Saxons' chances at competing for the Empire 8 title.

Cortland women move past slow start

Cortland opened the 2017-18 season with four consecutive losses, including three by six points or less. That type of slow start can derail a season before it truly begins, but the Red Dragons didn't allow that to happen.

Since starting 0-4, Cortland has won five straight, including four against SUNYAC opponents. After allowing 68-plus points in each of their four defeats, the Red Dragons have held the next five under 60 points. That improved defensive performance, coupled with a solid stretch from senior guard Kerry McHugh (33 points vs. New Paltz; 22 points vs. Fredonia), sparked the first-half turnaround.

Cortland opens the second half of the season with a weekend road trip against Oneonta (8-3, 3-1) and New Paltz (5-5, 1-3) this Friday and Saturday.

Top 25 roundup: Rochester squads remain ranked

The Rochester women's team and men's team checked in at No. 10 and No. 22, respectively, in this week's D3hoops.com Top 25 polls.

Skidmore dropped out of the men's top 25, but continued to receive votes. Geneseo, RIT, and Ithaca each continued to receive votes in the women's poll.

Contact me

Have a story idea? A fun stat? Just want to talk some hoops? I'm always happy to hear from a fellow D-III fan. I can be reached via email at andrew.lovell@d3sports.com, or on Twitter at @Andrew_Lovell.

Justin Goldberg

Andrew Lovell is a writer based in Connecticut and a former online news editor for ESPN.com, as well as a former sports staff writer/editor for the New Britain Herald (Conn.). He has written feature stories for ESPN.com, currently contributes fantasy football content to RotoBaller.com, and has been a regular contributor to D3sports.com sites since 2007. Andrew has also written for a number of daily newspapers in New York, including the Poughkeepsie Journal, Ithaca Journal and Auburn Citizen. He graduated from Ithaca College in 2008 with B.A. in Sport Media and a minor in writing.