Week 8 Men's SBL Player Column – Daniel Alexander
AFTER hailing from the deserts of the Wild West, I find myself now in the beautiful Perth, WA.
Although there are many differences (the main one being food portion sizes) between home, Austin, Texas USA and Western Oz, I can’t think of a better place to come live and play basketball after school.
Originally I wasn’t planning on continuing to play the game of basketball after finishing at the collegiate level, however, it seems as though God had other opportunities for me. Looking back, I believe He spoke to me (not audibly) one night as I drove home from a men’s league game I had been asked to play in by some friends.
I reflected on the comical amount of points I had scored and then was brought to a place emotionally where I asked myself, "What am I doing with my life?" I recognised I still have the gifts of relative athleticism, body awareness, and excellent personal hygiene that make for a great basketball player. I questioned though, if I could I face the game again that I had seemingly given everything to without the reward I was originally looking for.
I showed great promise as a young lad, being ranked top 20 in my class, being nominated for the McDonald’s All American Game, and receiving invitations to the Nike LeBron James Skills Academy as well as the Nike Vince Carter Top 20 Wings Camp.
Crazier still, I had my choice of many Division 1 schools to attend due to a fantastic support group around me in my Mom and Dad as well as AAU coach Max Ivany, and ultimately chose Texas A&M University because of their apparent interest in me as well as distance from home.
Things changed when college began and after being redshirted my first year, I faced four coaching changes in the next four years. I wasn’t able to find consistent minutes or confidence playing for my first three years of college, until transferring to Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, AZ.
Although I did not find ultimate peace, prosperity, and redemption for my personal career in basketball, I certainly found a home there. The memories I have of that place will be etched into my mind for years to come.
As I look back over my time playing college ball, I recognise areas of mental weakness, selfishness, and poor attitude that absolutely contributed to my lack of success in areas that I had first wanted. I also believe that the specific circumstances were allowed to take place in order to ultimately show me my need for a Savior. If I could trade my Knowledge of God and therefor Salvation, for the most successful college career ever, I would not. That being said, Knowing God in relationship does not mean calm waters and an easy life for a Christian! I continue to experience this alongside many others.
Months previously from my decision to pick up the basketball again, I had taken a youth pastor position at the church I was raised in back home after graduating from college with a degree in Film from GCU. I found myself in a similar position to a large number of recent college graduates as I wondered, "Now what?" I figured that I might as well do something in order to be a functioning member of society, and looked for part time jobs in areas of personal interest and gifting.
I was given the opportunity to serve God’s people in ministry, which is ultimately where my heart lies. I also held a job as a trainer at a gym nearby, as well as an educator at a fitness apparel store called Lululemon where I sold and stocked the highest quality stretchy pants available. It was during this time that I stepped away from constant contact with friends, teammates, coaches, and professors and began to rest, recuperate and power-up for the next season of life, whatever that was.
I had also gone on several trips in college with Athletes in Action, a Christian Sports Organisation which is how I was able to get connected with the Lakeside Lightning here in the SBL, as they have many mutual connections. I began the process of connecting with the church staff and coaching staff as much as is possible over email and an occasional phone conversation.
The Lakeside Lightning organisation is very unique in several ways, but a main one would be that the Lightning basketball teams and programs are used as a way to love, support and care for all involved, with the ultimate goal of seeing people say “Yes” to Jesus. If you were to ask anyone involved here at Lakeside at any level, they would probably acknowledge that there is a special sense of welcoming community surrounding the organisation. This is not by accident, as the Lakeside Lightning functions with the understanding that basketball is "More Than a Game," and is to be used as a means to a greater end, instead of basketball being the end itself.
This was important to me as I sought direction as to How, Where, and Why I would be continuing to play the game. For so long, I believed that I was using basketball, when in reality - it was using me. My worth, value, and contentment was directly correlated to my circumstances within the game. I seek freedom from that!
Another factor that has been awesome for the team and myself here is the head coach, Sam Oatman. He coaches from a player’s perspective alongside with the foundation that if basketball isn’t preparing us for life after the game, as we make choices and form habits, then it will be an empty pursuit.
He is a fellow American who has played D1 collegiate basketball as well as professional basketball, which adds to his knowledge and experience. He encourages us on and off the court to be the best we can be, and I couldn’t ask for more in a coach.
We have a great staff of assistant coaches in Steve Bezant and Lennon Smartt. Steve is one of the least flashy, yet most functional human beings I’ve ever met, which translates great to an assistant coach. Lennon is great and we are thankful for the young mind, as he is passionate, loyal, and willing to serve. He will do great things, as well as probably never get married because he wouldn’t find time in his schedule to “fit that in.” Chris Spatcher is a behind the scenes guy, who doesn’t look for credit, but simply wants the team to win. We are learning a lot as a team from his acts of service.
There are many others who make Lakeside what it is, but I am sure I have used up the allotment of words allowed in the "short article" I was asked to write.
Present day, I am personally still learning to enjoy the game in its fullness, as well as doing my best to use it to serve and encourage/inspire others.
Our team is working hard, as one of the youngest team in the league, to build habits and form a culture of commitment and hard work for the years to come. We look forward to the inevitable adversity and challenges this season as well as the successes as we find out what "More Than A Game" really means.
Article by Daniel Alexander
Photo by Mick Cronin