February 5, 2009
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
STARKVILLE -- One step is all Alexis Rack needs to change a game.
For most players, that step would take them closer to the basket
But Rack''s most dangerous step might be in reverse.
How can one step mean so much?
That step is so dangerous because Rack puts it together with a quick dribble and a quick release. Most often, the step back puts Rack behind the 3-point line, and when she is in rhythm, it''s lights out.
"She doesn''t need a screen to get to it," Arkansas coach Tom Collen said. "She has that ability to beat you off the dribble and hit the step-back three, and it is her favorite three."
Rack''s ability to create space for herself and to connect from long distance has put her in position to make history at 7 tonight when the Mississippi Stat women''s basketball team plays host to No. 20 Vanderbilt at Humphrey Coliseum.
Rack enters her 86th career game with 988 points. A 12-point night or better would help her become the program''s 15th player to eclipse 1,000 career points.
Rack, a 5-foot-7 guard from Franklin, La., said she learned the step-back 3-pointer from her brothers Willdric, 21, and Toddric, 27. She credits her brothers for teaching her a lot about the game of basketball.
Trouble is, now that Rack has become so adept at taking over gams, her brothers seldom will challenge her to games anymore.
That''s OK with Rack, who prefers to deliver her daggers against Southeastern Conference foes.
One of Rack''s most recent clutch shots came down the stretch at LSU. Rack''s deep 3-pointer helped MSU tie LSU and set the state for Armelie Lumanu''s game-winning shot in the lane.
MSU coach Sharon Fanning has seen Rack hit game-changing shots many times. She said she has come to expect it from a player wants to be a leader and someone who she looks to to help set the tone defensively
"Alexis never has had a problem taking a big shot," Fanning said. "I think that is why she is cool with shooting and why she doesn''t panic. She doesn''t mind having the pressure, whether it is a drive, or a pass, or a rebound. I can see her maturing in terms of how she reacts to a missed shot or to things that don''t go her way."
Rack feels her shooting has improved since her freshman season when she averaged 10.3 points per game and shot 33.5 percent from the field.
Rack''s scoring improved to 11.5 ppg. as a sophomore, but her shooting slipped to 30 percent.
This season, Rack leads the Lady Bulldogs (16-6, 3-4 SEC) in scoring (13.6), assists (99), and made 3-pointers (61).
Rack has hit 3-pointers in 18 consecutive games, and 30 of her last 31, dating back to last season. She leads the SEC in 3-pointers per game (2.8).
For her career, Rack has 207 3-pointers and is 16 away from passing Tan White and becoming the school''s leader in that category.s
If Rack''s shooting percentage remains the same, she will eclipse 1,000 points with the lowest shooting percentage in school history.
Lacharlotte Smith (1992-96) finished her career with 1,533 points and as a 35.5 percent shooter.
Statistics for Wanda Calhoun, who scored 1,090 points from 1974-77, are incomplete.
Rack said she never has thought about scoring 1,000 points. Her concern has always been and remains being part of a winning team and winning a championship.
This year, though, Rack has emerged as the team''s leader and top scoring option. The absence of senior guard Marneshia Richard and the addition of junior college transfers Lumanu, Chanel Mokango, and Rima Kalonda has thrust Rack into a bigger role.
"I am comfortable with (being the No. 1 option)" Rack said. "I feel I am a threat that they will look out for, definitely more than the first two seasons."
Rack attributes her improvement to the hard work she put in in the offseason. She said she stayed in Starkville and didn''t shoot a set number of shots every day, but she remained committed because she wanted to get better and to improve several aspects of her game.
Oddly enough, though, Rack doesn''t consider the step-back 3-pointer to be her trademark move. She feels her ability to drive is her trademark move.
Collen said the key to defending Rack to to get up and guard her to deny the 3-pointer because it can be a momentum changer. That is easier said than done because Rack has the quickness and ability to go to either hand to take a defender off the dribble.
Fanning said Rack has accepted the added responsibilities this season and continues to listen an to accept coaching.
The result is a player who is more comfortable and confident on the offensive end -- regardless of whether she is taking a step forward or a step back.
"I think she is learning and I think we''re learning as a staff how we can put her in the best position to score," Fanning said. "I have seen her drive better to the bucket, I have seen her jump shot better off the thumbs up (one of their plays in the half-court set). I see her have more intensity for longer periods of time, I see her leading her team better, and being tougher, and I can see more mental toughness. All of those are ingredients that combine with the rest of our team stepping up and getting to know each other and is going to help us win a lot of big ballgames."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.