There’s no endangered list in high school athletics, but if there were, athletes like Alexus Hill definitely would be at the top of it.
High school sports currently are in the age of specialization, an era in which vast numbers of athletes pick a sport – one and only one – shortly before high school, and abandon all other sports. The method of thinking usually is brought about by hopes to win a scholarship to college. Often pushed by parents, a gifted athlete will play his or her best sport in every season, from school to club and back again.
From the time Hill was a freshman, it was apparent she had an excellent chance to be a Division I basketball player. (And she will be. She signed with Gardner-Webb.)
But Hill never bought into the thought that specialization will mean a scholarship. She is the increasingly rare three-sport star, good enough in one of her “other” sports to be named the 2013 Telegram All-Area Volleyball Player of the Year.
“I never really got pushed and pulled,” Hill said of playing one sport. “People wanted me to, but my mom and dad were like, if this is what you want to do, if you want to play three sports, as long as you keep your grades up, you can do it.”
Hill takes two Advanced Placement courses at Northern Nash and another two honors classes. She is the Knights’ leading scorer in basketball and soccer, an elite AAU basketball player and a someone for whom there is no offseason.
She’s never at a loss for something to play, and for a reason.
Alexus’ father, Quentin, asked her if she would like to focus on just basketball because that was her best game. She could have ditched volleyball and soccer and nobody would have blamed her.
Hill scoffed at the question. She was playing all three.
“That’s where I knew how competitive she was and how I guess she really loved sports. I can’t say she just loved one sport,” Quentin Hill said. “She loves the competition and loves her teammates. Her thing was, if she started something, she wasn’t going to stop. She didn’t want to let her teammates down.”
As her recruitment heated up last spring and this summer, she never questioned whether she would play volleyball.
Now that she actually has earned the basketball scholarship, she never questioned whether she will play soccer in the spring. On the contrary, she and her teammates have been recruiting for Northern Nash’s soccer team, which barely had enough girls to field a full squad last season.
Hill thinks as many 25 girls will try out for soccer after her recruiting campaign.
In volleyball, the Knights lost their entire front line from 2012. Three talented players – Camille Branch, Claire Fleming and Deja Lewis – all graduated, leaving voids in skill and leadership.
So Hill stepped in, leading the team in kills, blocks and tying the lead in aces.
“She was definitely a leader on the court and off the court,” Northern Nash coach Patricia Haggerty said. “The girls definitely looked up to her.”
In her 19 seasons as the Knights’ volleyball coach, Haggerty said she never had built an offense around a player as short as Hill. Hill’s position, middle hitter, often features girls who also play center on the basketball team, not shooting guard.
Haggerty said if Hill wanted to, she probably could have been a volleyball player in college.
Contrary to the argument of going to one sport, Hill insists playing two additional sports made her better at basketball.
“Actually, playing soccer and volleyball helped me with my footwork,” she said. “It helped to the point where I feel like I’m quicker than I was before.”
And while Hill will spend the next four years playing basketball, it was important to her that she played volleyball, too.
With Northern Nash in transition, Hill knew she would have to be a leader.
To Hill, leaders don’t quit.
“The preseason thought was it’s basically time for me to step up,” Hill said. “I played the role of role player in my freshmen, sophomore and junior years. I knew I was going to step up and have to be the leader of the team (as a senior.) We did lose a few leaders.
“I knew it was time for me to step up and show the girls I’m here, and I got your back.”
Nick Piotrowicz can be reached at 407-9952 or email@example.com