Most valuable player
Published 10:45 pm Saturday, February 8, 2014
Stirgus makes huge impact for Mississippi College
By Steve Wilson
Mississippi College women’s basketball coach Paul Allen Duke has only regret about former Vicksburg High star Alexus Stirgus.
He’s only had her for two years, not four. Stirgus spent two years at Copiah-Lincoln Community College before arriving in Clinton as a junior.
“I believe if she would’ve been here four years with us, she would’ve been an All-American,” Duke said. “She’s an unbelievable leader and has such a great work ethic. She’s really come alive this season and without her, we’d have been in serious trouble.”
Stirgus has made a name for herself as Duke’s go-player this season at Mississippi College. It’s easy to think that means scoring, but that’s only part of the equation. She’s averaging 11.4 points and shooting more than 50 percent from the field, a strong percentage for a perimeter player.
“I really can’t say enough good things about her,” Duke said. “She’s exactly the kind of player every basketball coach is looking for. She’s got a motor that is running all of the time. She’s one of our captains and she’s our vocal leader. The girls all listen to her.”
The 5-foot-6 senior guard is a great offensive player playing around 30 minutes per game, with a stellar stroke at the 3-point line (41 percent) and a one-dribble pull-up move that forces defenses to pick their poison with her on the perimeter. In her first season at Mississippi College, defenders found they could run her off the 3-point line with a closeout. Now armed with a dribble move, they have to honor her ability to drive past them into the lane, where she can create shots for herself or others.
That dribble-drive capability has her attempting 4.7 free-throw attempts per game, second on the team. She’s a willing and able passer who sees things before they unfold, leading the team with 3.7 assists per contest.
Offense to Stirgus is just icing on the cake. If you had to ask what her favorite part of basketball is, she doesn’t hesitate.
“I love defense,” Stirgus said. “I love it when Coach and I go in the film room and find out a girl’s favorite moves and figure out how to stop them. I love covering the other team’s best player. It excites me. My goal every game isn’t to score. It’s to stop the best player on the other team.”
She was a four-time Vicksburg Post All-County team selection under Vicksburg High coach Barbara Hartzog. Stirgus credits Hartzog with increasing her defensive abilities and overall basketball knowledge.
“When I first met Coach Hartzog as a freshman, she explained to me that if I wanted to make it to the next level, I had to score and play excellent defense,” Stirgus said. “She helped me have that mindset and it helped my game explode.”
As a junior at MC, she played in 21 games and started six. When the season ended, she asked Duke what she needed to do to improve and make more of a contribution to the team’s success. He wanted her to improve her conditioning and further hone her offensive game.
“My goal at the end of the summer was to lose 15 pounds, improve my 3-point shot and my one-dribble pullup move,” Stirgus said.
She went to work, going to the gym at 5 a.m. each summer morning before work and hitting the gym again when she was done with each shift. Despite the hours, she had no problem with the effort.
“I’ve always heard that if you love something, like basketball, you love it more than breathing,” Stirgus said. “You’ll work on it. My game really exploded after that. I’ve really expanded my basketball knowledge.”
With her collegiate career nearing its end, Stirgus harbors hopes of playing basketball professionally, perhaps overseas. Her first objective is to start pharmacy school, maybe at the University of Mississippi Medical Center or at Houston or the University of Louisiana-Monroe. She doesn’t care where she ends up, just as long as she gets to be a pharmacist.
“I love Vicksburg and always will,” Stirgus said. “But where the pharmacy takes me, that’s where I want to go.”