Alex Louin, a Villanova freshman from Mount St. Joseph Academy, rises up over St. John’s Kyra Dunn to launch a three-point shot in last week’s WNIT round-of-16 game. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

Alex Louin, a Villanova freshman from Mount St. Joseph Academy, rises up over St. John’s Kyra Dunn to launch a three-point shot in last week’s WNIT round-of-16 game. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

For the first time in her basketball career, Alex Louin found her school team playing all the way through the month of March. Louin graduated from Mount St. Joseph Academy last spring, and now her “school team” is the one at Villanova University, which continued its season well after almost all other college and high school squads had turned in their uniforms.

The Wildcats won the last home game of Louin’s rookie season on Thursday, March 26, topping St. John’s University, 63-55, and moving on to play the University of West Virginia in the quarterfinals of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament.

The six-foot freshman guard from the Mount isn’t just along for the ride. She’s played in all 35 games for the 23-12 franchise, starting once, and averaging almost half-a-game of playing time, 19.5 minutes. Her scoring average of 6.6 points per game ties her for fifth place on the team, and she’s pulling down around three rebounds each time out.

Her court time kept increasing as the season went along, even in the one-and-done playoff setting. In Villanova’s first WNIT game, she shot five-for-seven from the three-point line and totaled a team-high 17 points in a 71-60 win over the University of Maine. She had six points and three assists next time out, as the Wildcats overcame Old Dominion, 71-66.

In the round-of-16 contest against St. John’s last week, the ‘Nova newcomer would see her club basketball teammate, Tamesha “Sox” Alexander, a freshman on the Red Storm squad. Alexander starred at Shipley School, and joined forces with Louin on a highly successful Philadelphia Belles AAU outfit. The two did not encounter one another on the court on Thursday; St. John’s only used seven players, and Alexander was not one of them.

While still in high school, Louin already began to prepare for a higher level of play by doing a lot of physical training and shooting drills outside of practice. Still, there are some aspects of the college game that can’t truly be appreciated until you actually step onto the NCAA Division I stage.

“The pace is just a lot faster,” Louin said. “Everyone is more athletic, and obviously there are a lot more talented players. Those are the main adjustments I’ve had to make.

“I’m always working on my shot,” she added, “and there’s a lot of conditioning. You have to be in condition to be able to run up and down with the great athletes we play against. We do a lot of [weight] lifting and that helps us stay in shape, too; it definitely translates into performing better on the court.”

In just the fourth game of her college career, Louin scored a team-high nine points for the Wildcats in a 51-46 loss to Arizona State, an NCAA Tournament “Sweet 16” team. At the end of December, she chalked up what would be her single-game high for the season, dropping 20 points on North Carolina State as Villanova knocked off the Wolfpack, 74-65.

Her teammates include redshirt sophomore Megan Quinn, the 2012-13 Inter-Ac League MVP, and starting senior forward Emily Leer, a Glenside resident who played for Abington High School.

The Main Line ballclub finished third in the Big East regular season, and in the conference tournament the Wildcats moved through to the semifinals before losing a nail-biter to eventual champ DePaul University, 58-55. Louin had five points and a pair of assists in that contest.

Both DePaul and conference runner-up Seton Hall received bids to the NCAA tournament, but although Villanova was consigned to the less prestigious WNIT, the Wildcats were still playing ball after both the Blue Demons and the Pirates had been ushered out of the Big Dance.
Louin has received a lot of encouragement from the ‘Nova coaching staff.

“They just want me to keep on shooting three’s, play good defense, be a good passer, and contribute any way that I can,” she related. “I’m working on my rebounding, on helping defend post players, and on defending quick guards without fouling.”

Last Thursday, in her final home game as a rookie, the MSJ alum came off the bench less than five minutes into the contest and quickly made an impact. Hauling in five rebounds, she rang up 10 points to lead the Wildcats in scoring in the opening half, which ended with Villanova ahead by two, 28-26.

In the stands along with her family were Louin’s coaches from Mount St. Joseph, John Miller and Joe Sweeney.

Villanova and St. John’s, which had split in their regular-season home/away series, paced each other through the first 10 minutes of the second half. The bout was tied at 40-all with nine minutes remaining, then the Wildcats pulled away. Louin finished with 14 points, six rebounds, a block and a steal. She was third in scoring for the victors.

The outcome earned them a road trip to West Virginia. Louin and her teammates have made much longer journeys, roaming as far as Florida and California just in the first few weeks of the season. In the course of their travels, schoolwork must get done, and somehow it does.

“You really have to budget your time,” the freshman observed. “When we go on the road, we all have our books and things with us in our backpacks, and we make the most of our time.

“I’m in the business school; it’s tough but it’s interesting,” she said.

Louin had been recruited by a great many colleges while she was at the Mount, and with one NCAA season now under her belt, she has no regrets about the choice she made.

“It’s really been fun,” she stated. “It exceeded my expectations.”