Originally posted on www.cedarvalleypreps.com by Nick Petaros
JESUP | As soon as this week, Alissa Brown could become the all-time leading scorer at Jesup High School.
The J-Hawks center, who has already signed a letter of intent to continue her basketball career at NCAA Division II Kentucky State, is coming off an all-state junior season in which she led the North Iowa Cedar League with averages of 19 points and 11 rebounds a game.
Brown surpassed the 1,000-point career milestone two games into this season and her total of 1,065 sits just 18 back of Jenny Vogel's school record.
"It was a lot of hard work paying off and knowing that those hours do mean something," Brown said, addressing her scoring accolades.
The 5-foot-11, fourth-year starter steps onto the basketball court with a desire to challenge herself in a sport that she's enjoyed since grade school. She's played AAU basketball since sixth grade and most recently competed for the Eastern Iowa-based Iowa Extreme.
"She's always been a hard worker and her love for basketball is probably that big thing that has driven her," said Tom Klein, Brown's coach since seventh grade. "She has always been aggressive, played with no fear."
The emotion of the game is part of what initially drew Brown to the sport.
"You have to have a passion to play basketball," Brown said. "It's a lot of want. You get tired at the end and you've got to have that push other people don't have."
Looking to improve that finishing touch, Brown stepped outside her comfort zone and switched from one fall sport to another. She spent the last two years competing on Jesup's cross county team, even though her height and athleticism made volleyball a comfortable fit.
Admittedly not a natural distance runner, Brown says she learned plenty from racing on hilly parks and golf courses.
"That was probably one of the best decisions I ever made," Brown said. "It was one of the hardest ones, too. I really liked volleyball, but cross country pushed me to my limits.
"It's such a mental sport and I'm not a runner. I'm a bigger girl and it was really hard at first. But I'm so happy I did it. When basketball came around it was like the court seemed so short."
Brown credits her cross country coach, Rachel Dahl, for helping her grow as an athlete.
"I not only learned how to run," Brown said. "I learned how to eat healthier and stretch better. A lot of that carried over to basketball."
Klein has seen Brown become a different player since joining cross country.
"She gets up and down the floor now," he said. "Being our numbers are low, we count on her. If she's not in foul trouble, she doesn't come off the floor. That's made a big difference where she can stay in that game and not get worn down."
A willingness to put in the extra time has been a trait that has defined Brown's career. She's invested countless summer hours inside a gym.
Often Brown works alone, while sometimes her younger brother, Tyler, and sister, Kelsi, join in. Brown has even convinced her boyfriend, Kyle Schultz, who starts on the boys' basketball team, to help out.
"People might go on dates, well we go to the gym and shoot," Brown said. "He's a lot bigger than I am and I usually don't get to practice against girls that are bigger than me. So when we do play, it's really beneficial for me."
In addition to her work on the court, Brown has increased her basketball IQ by coaching her sister's eighth-grade AAU team. That coaching experience has become valuable with a contrast of three seniors and five freshmen accounting for the main varsity rotation on this year's Jesup team.
"Sometimes in games or at practice, I catch myself coaching," Brown said. "I even coach myself. After everything I do, I'm evaluating it. I think they appreciate it when I do give a little advice -- stuff that's harder for a coach to teach where if it comes from a player right next to you it's easier."
"I think the big thing is she makes them feel comfortable," Klein added.
Brown has become accustomed to facing box-and-one defenses, and Klein has seen his star center also improve her passing skills. The senior has become a complete player.
"She doesn't give up," Klein said. "Wanting to succeed, wanting her team to do well, that stands out. Whatever is needed from her for the team to do, she'll do."
While Brown admits she didn't always see herself traveling far away from home for college, the Jesup senior says she is looking forward to continuing to compete in the sport she loves.
"It's basketball country down there," Brown said, addressing her upcoming move to Kentucky. "It was an opportunity I felt that I couldn't pass up."
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