Shalexia Little wins Athlete of the Week

Published 7:58 pm Friday, December 15, 2023

Springwood’s girls basketball team is off to a dominant start this season. Several players have been pivotal early on, but Shalexia Little’s impact is impossible to overstate. 

Little transferred to Springwood from LaFayette High School this school year, but she was already familiar with the program. Little played with several Lady Wildcats over the summer. For Little, the decision to transfer came with more than athletics in mind. 

“It really came down to more than basketball,” Little said. “I played with them over the summer, so I got to get a feel of how everybody played. I just felt like it would be better overall, academic-wise and sports-wise.” 

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Little played travel ball with Tori Patillo and Emily Jo Matthews over the summer; that chemistry has shown early on. Over the past three games, Little has averaged just over 23 points. 

“I’m really scoring most of my points in the paint,” Little said. “I’m just getting my teammates the ball and getting them open. The game just comes to me. I just try not to force shots.” 

Little is one of the best scorers at the guard position in the area, but scoring is not even her go-to. Little is also a key facilitator of the Wildcats’ offense. 

Every time Little brings the ball up the court, she is constantly reading the defense to decide whether she is scoring or setting up her teammates. 

“When I’m going down the court, if I see a teammate that’s open and has a better percentage of making the shot, I just drop it off,” Little said. “They collide on them, they’ll usually give it back. If I have open shots or I know there’s a girl guarding me and I can take her, I just go for the shot.” 

Little is an offensive weapon and a great facilitator for Springwood’s offense, but it all starts on the defensive side for Little. 

Springwood’s offense has been at its best this season when the girls can get out and run in transition. Little has been one of the main players to set the Wildcats up with fastbreak opportunities thanks to her quick instincts on defense. 

“As we play we defense, I just watch the point guard’ or whoever has the ball eyes,” Little said. “That can tell you a lot about where they’re throwing the ball.” 

Despite being a new member of the Springwood family, Little has stepped into a leadership role for the Wildcats. Little has become one of the more vocal members of the team, and she has helped some of the younger players grow their games. 

“I have a big impact on the younger girls,” Little said. “I’ve made them feel comfortable. When it comes to the games, I really just try to play my game and play team ball. It really wasn’t hard because a lot of the people on our team are young. It just came naturally.” 

The biggest aspect of Little’s performance for Springwood has been her chemistry with her teammates. Patillo and Little have been the dynamic duo for the Wildcats. The leading scorer for each game has been one of Little or Patillo. 

Patillo and Little’s chemistry on the court came from playing travel ball over the summer, but now the two have built a strong relationship outside of basketball. 

“Over the summer we played travel ball, and we got real close,” Little said. “You can say we’re best friends right now.” 

Little has grown up watching several different basketball players, but she is her own person on the court. Little does not try to model her game after other players as she chooses to use the best parts of her own skillset. 

“I really don’t try to play off of other people’s game, I just try to play my game,” Little said. “At the end of the day, I’m the one out there playing.” 

The expectations for Springwood’s girls basketball team have never been higher. The Lady Wildcats were ranked within the top ten of basketball teams in the AISA, but the Wildcats have their sights set on a higher goal. 

“I’m looking forward to not losing anymore this season,” Little said. “I feel like we should be getting a ring this year.” 

Coach Lisa Sampson serves as the head coach for both basketball teams, but during the season the teams’ practices are split. During the off-season, the two teams did compete against one another, and Little was not one to back down from scoring buckets on the guys. 

“When we first started, we went up against the boys a lot because some of them were still playing football,” Little said. “I’m not going to say any names, but they know who they are.” 

Little has become adept at scoring in the paint and setting her teammates up, but she still wants to make improvements. Little hopes to improve her shooting from midrange and become a better shooter from behind the arc as well.