Just over two months after playing in an NCAA tournament game for Syracuse, Kayla Alexander played in her first WNBA game.
Just under two weeks after graduating college, Kayla Alexander was on television. (Hear that, Newhouse grads!)
Alexander, Syracuse's all-time leading scorer, debuted for the San Antonio Silver Stars on Friday night in the team's season opener against defending champion Indiana Fever. The 6-foot-4 center had four points and five rebounds, but her team fell short. San Antonio lost, 75-59, at home.
Alexander entered the game with 14 seconds left in the first quarter. She got caught on the wrong end of a high ball screen and Indiana guard Briann January closed the quarter with a three. But it didn't take long for Alexander to show off some of her defensive skills that made her a first round pick.
Fever forward Erlana Larkins grabbed an offensive rebound on the first possession of the second half. She went up for a put-back basket, but Alexander towered over for a block. The Fever regained possession and drew Alexander away from the basket. Alexander lost control of Larkins after a simple pick-and-roll play. Larkins received a bounce pass and glided through the lane, but missed the easy lay-up. This time, Alexander was there for the rebound. Alexander went to the bench at the 6:57 mark and didn't return until midway in the third quarter.
Her first basket came with 3:15 to go in the game. Danielle Robinson found Alexander wide open under the basket and the former SU center did not miss. She scored again with 1:31 left on a short jumper.
After scoring the first ten points of the game, the Silver Stars struggled to score in the second half. The team was without seven time All-Star Becky Hammon, who has a broken middle finger. Last season, Hammon was second in the league in assists with 5.3 per game.
Kayla not only has to adapt to a new league, but a new defensive system. It was her first (regular season) game playing the man-to-man defense rather than the Syracuse 2-3 zone. Although she did get five rebounds in about nine minutes of playing time, Alexander got caught out of position a few times when Indiana used screens and quick ball movement. When the Fever drew her out of position, they could attack the rim without much difficulty. Her WNBA role will be much more complicated than just being the stationary anchor of the zone, the last line of defense.
But if Alexander proved anything at SU, it was her ability to always evolve and get better. Even during one of SU's most successful seasons, the peak of her college career, she was never satisfied. Complacency leads to losing, she would tell me, after concluding a long practice inside the Melo Center in Syracuse.