As dominant as Alexis Poole was on the basketball court at Stockbridge High School, she only has a select few scholarship offers to play in college.
After a strong freshman season last year, the former Tiger standout and now sophomore at Kennesaw State is demonstrating what many other college programs missed out on, and has found a home with the Owls.
“The other school that offered me was Eastern Kentucky,” Poole said. “At Kennesaw State, it was more like a family scene. The campus, I just felt more at home, and I felt like I could connect with the team. … Even if I didn’t play basketball, I would’ve chosen Kennesaw State.”
Things are definitely falling into place for the 6-foot-2 forward on the court.
She not only leads the Owls (5-11 overall, 1-2 in the Atlantic Sun Conference) in rebounding (8.5 rpg), she also ranks second among all KSU regulars in scoring (14.1 ppg), third in field goal percentage (48.6 percent) and fourth in free-throw shooting (73.7 percent).
As recently as this past Tuesday night, Poole posted a career night with a college-best 27 points and pulled down 15 rebounds in a 67-61 home loss to Liberty, making her the first KSU player in more than two years to collect that many boards and round out her eighth double-double of the season.
It’s the latest performance in a season in which she has taken her game to a new, higher level after a solid freshman season in which she averaged 10.2 points and team-leading 7.9 rebounds a game, ranking 14th in the ASUN in both categories and fifth in the nation’s freshman in rebounding.
Part of the jump can be chalked up to the natural maturation process and the adjustment to the college game.
“I came from a high school where I was the best player in the whole county,” Poole said. “Then coming to college, where everybody was the best player from their school or area, just adjusting to that and knowing that people do improve, but that’s what you have to do, as well.
“I had plenty of nights like (Tuesday) in high school. But this year, especially, I felt it has been more positive whatever happens knowing that I can do something, whether it’s on the ball, off the ball, defense or offense, I can do something. I can focus on those things, and then just the game come to me.”
Poole also credits her improvement to the sense of family she gets from the team, and her desire to do everything she can for that family.
The family atmosphere is almost a literal one for her.
In addition to welcoming friend and former high school foe, Locust Grove grad Peyton Lewis, to the team this season, she also has family ties to current Owls coach Agnus Berenato, whom her mother Devony played for during her college days at Georgia Tech.
And while Poole says here mother never tried to influence her decision to play for Berenato at KSU, she says she quickly came to see a lot of the same qualities in the veteran coach her mom did.
“Honestly, it wasn’t really a discussion,” Poole said. “I knew my mom played for Coach B, but that wasn’t (necessarily) the reason that I (decided to) play for Coach B. I wanted to make sure that it was something that I wanted to do. My mom, she really didn’t say much to me during the recruiting process. She just wanted me to make the best decision more myself and what I felt was good.”
While she already and come to see Berenato as a source of inspiration and motivation, those feelings only became stronger when the coach made her battle with breast cancer public last fall.
Berneato’s courage has also made Poole even more determined to give her coach everything she has both on and off the court.
“Coach B has always been a motivational force of all of us,” Poole said. “Just finding out that she was battling cancer only made us just want to win more for her. There’s really not much of a change other than the fact that it’s just another reason why we play basketball and why we do it.
“I’m going to keep working hard and keep doing what I do what the team needs me to do. As long as I continue to work and continue to be positive, my game is going to elevate itself.”