What are Quincy University athletes doing this summer to prepare themselves to step into vital roles for their respective teams during the 2017-18 school year? Senior Sports Writer Matt Schuckman catches up with QU athletes who are staying diligent in their pursuit of playing time and success. This is the fifth in the series.
QUINCY — Alexa Low might fit in quite nicely in the "noonball" games at the Quincy Family YMCA.
The guys playing at Wright Patterson Air Force Base probably think so.
With no women's leagues to participate in this summer while at home in Beavercreek, Ohio, the Quincy University sophomore basketball player heads to the Air Force Base three times per week to play in their lunchtime games.
"There's probably 30 or 40 of us playing," said Low, a 6-foot-2 forward. "It's a bunch of old Air Force men."
For the most part. they don't cut her any slack.
"The guys I know are all very supportive and treat me like a basketball player," Low said. "Sometimes you get the guys who don't know and come in and see me as a girl. I get that. I'm using a guys' basketball, so I have to get used to that. That's a transition.
"Most of the guys are really nice and understand why I'm there."
Truth be told, there might be no better place for Low this summer.
As the Hawks struggled last winter through a 5-23 season with an inexperienced group, Low emerged as a player with vast potential. She played in 28 games, averaging 3.6 points and 1.9 rebounds per game.
Her ability to face the basket and knock down 15-foot jumpers showed she had range.
Getting muscled off the block showed she had become more physical. That's been the focus of her summer.
"One of my biggest weaknesses last year was not being strong enough," Low said. "So I've really been trying to bulk up for this upcoming year."
Squaring off with military men helps in that regard, too.
"It's making me more confident," Low said. "Playing with a bunch of older, stronger guys and still being able to make moves has really helped. They are very supportive and get me open and make me part of the game. It's been a great thing."
The stronger Low gets, the less she'll have the ball taken away.
One of the things QU coach Jeni Garber stressed during spring workouts and implored Low to work on this summer was keeping the ball high to avoid turnovers.
Low committed 28 turnovers last season while averaging just 13 minutes per game.
"Technically-wise, skill-wise, I wanted her to work on keeping the ball up above and shooting it from up above and not down by her waist," Garber said. "She tends to start her shot really low and kind of flip it up there."
Low understands the value of holding the ball high.
"I'd get it down there and the guards would come in and take it away from me," she said. "Coach has been on me about that. I'm trying hard to get better at that so it doesn't happen."
More important, Low no longer sees herself as finding her way.
That showed earlier this summer when the Hawks returned to help the coaching staff run their annual team camp and individual camp. Garber said Low demonstrated the kind of leadership and confidence of someone coming of age.
"She needs to take a front seat instead of a back seat," Garber said. "She needs to be aggressive in everything she does. She needs the mentality of, ‘You're not going to stop me.' She has great potential, but we all know how that can turn out if there's not the right mentality.
"I see the right mentality in her and in her approach going into the offseason. She really wants to be a player and a leader on this team."
Low knows it's vital for the Hawks' success.
"A bunch of us are going to have to step up and be very vocal," said Low, cognizant of QU's 10-player freshman class. "With all of these freshmen, they're going to have a lot to learn. For the team and for Coach Garber, it's going to help if we all step in and try to be leaders.
"It's going to be an interesting preseason trying to get everything ready and learning everything. That's why leadership from the upperclassmen is so important."