Kellner finds fit with Owls as confidence grows

Hunter O. Lyle – Sports Editor

With under ten games left in the season, the women’s basketball team seems to have run into more bumps than expected. While the team’s record is not ideal, the team has been able to find comfort and reassurance in their developing players, such as redshirt freshman Alexa Kellner.

Coming into the program halfway during the season last year, Kellner, the team’s starting forward, has already made progress in improving her game. She is currently averaging 9.5 points, 5 rebounds and 1.3 steals a game while playing more than 33 minutes a game.

Head coach Kate Lynch said the impact that Kellner is already having has more than impressed her and her coaching staff.

“Not a lot of freshman start,” said Lynch. “You kind of have to be a special player, a special type of person to be able to bear that load. For us, each game she keeps getting better.”

Growing up in Stamford, Conn., basketball was not Kellner’s main sport. Until high school, she preferred playing on a softball diamond, while basketball just for fun.

“I fell out of love with the game of softball and started taking basketball more seriously. Probably around eighth grade I made that change and I’ve been playing basketball since,” said Kellner. “I just had a really different drive. I got so bored of softball that it was like pulling teeth. Basketball I would wake up at 4 in the morning and go shoot. It didn’t bother me.”

When getting recruited, there are many factors that athletes may take into consideration — the school’s location, prominence of the athletic program and even the academics. For Kellner, who was heavily recruited by multiple schools including Southern, she wanted to avoid the hectic process and chose her first school — the Division I University of Massachusetts — early.

“I was recruited by a lot of different people, and I just wanted to narrow down my choices. It’s stressful dealing with the recruiting,” said Kellner, “so I just wanted to make my decision quickly so I didn’t have to deal with that stress, and I wanted to enjoy the rest of my summer just playing for fun and not have to worry about being watched that much.”

After spending a semester there, and after vigorously rehabbing an injury, Kellner said she was not happy with her situation and decided to leave UMass.

“I realized when I got there that it wasn’t the fit that I wanted. I play this sport because I love it and it was really kind of too hectic over there for me,” said Kellner. “I wanted to just settle down and focus more on school and basketball, rather than it be just so strict.”

From Southern’s perspective, while Lynch and her staff were happy that Kellner got a chance to play at the best level, they never stopped wanting to add Kellner to the roster. As a tall shooter, Kellner would have been a pivotal piece in the Owls plans for chasing a NE10 banner.

“[Kellner] was really sought after. She had multiple Division I offers, but she’s a local product so, our goal is always to keep the best local products in-state or around. That was always our goal,” said Lynch. “We figured we’d still continue to recruit her, build a relationship, and hopefully she would come to us.”

Now that Kellner is on the team, coaches and players alike, such as forward Kiana Steinauer, a senior and leader of the team, agree that she is developing on and off the court.

“When she first came in last year [over] Christmas break, she was quiet, kind of for the remainder of the year. This year, she’s definitely grown out of her shell,” said Steinauer. “She’s also developed so much as a player, I think confidence-wise and skill-wise. She’s always working, always wanting to be better.”

With Kellner becoming fully acclimated to the team, on and off the court, Lynch said Kellner could accomplish pretty much anything she put her mind to.

“I really don’t think there’s a ceiling for [Kellner], I really don’t,” said Lynch. “She’s the type of player that wants to continue to expand her game. She wants to do things better. If she gets good at one thing, she’s like, ‘okay, well what’s the next thing I can get better at?’”

As a redshirt freshman coming to the end of her first season with the team, Kellner has already started to attain some accolades, like the NE10 Rookie of the Week award she earned on Jan. 27.

Looking forward, since she is only a freshman, she has three more years ahead of her, and with each one, Kellner said she hopes to achieve more, including breaking records.

“[When I first came to Southern,] I wanted to break some three point records, but I don’t know how that’s going so far, but I have years to come so, it’ll all come with experience. The main goal that I actually do want to set is scoring 1,000 points, which I don’t think would be that difficult,” said Kellner, who currently sits at 195 points with seven games left in her first season as an Owl.

“It’s because when I was in high school, I hurt myself 12 points shy of 1,000, so it’s like a big moment for me, even though it might be a small goal for some people. It would probably mean the world to me.”

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