Push It

Sophomore center Alaina Coates provides a spark off the bench for her South Carolina Gamecocks.
by March 18, 2015
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The one part of basketball that University of South Carolina center Alaina Coates was used to the least at the start of her college career is now her favorite thing about the game.

“Coming in freshman year, it was a big transition. I wasn’t used to the physicality of play,” the sophomore says. “I was ready, but I wasn’t ready.”

In a year and a half, Coates has come a long way. “As weird as it sounds, my favorite part of the game is banging in the post with other people,” she says. “It’s just something about the physicality and being able to make stops and get core baskets…defensively blocking shots and being really physical. That’s what’s most appealing to me.”

Coates leads her 27-2 team in total blocks and rebounds, while averaging a solid 10.6 points and 8.1 rebounds off the bench and having fun—and playing effectively—down by the basket where she loves being most.

Coates wasn’t always a basketball girl. She started off kicking a soccer ball around when she was a kid. When she saw her brother playing in recreational basketball leagues, she took an interest in hoops.

“I would just be sitting there and thinking, you know, [basketball] looks kind of interesting. So I decided to give it a shot, and I basically loved playing ever since.”

With heightened interest from recruiters and motivation from her family, Coates decided to pursue the game she fell in love with. As a freshman at SC, Coates won multiple accolades, including but not limited to SEC Co-Sixth Player of the Year, SEC Freshman of the Year and Freshman All-America First-Team. Although her actual stats have not shot up in dramatic fashion from her first year to her second, she is a dominant presence on the nation’s top-ranked team.

“I know that I’m capable of doing more—it’s just a matter of pushing myself to do more.”

Habeeba Husain is an Editorial Intern at SLAM. Follow her on Twitter @HabeebaHusain.