INDIANAPOLIS – While much of the focus of the BR-13 Washington roster has been on junior guard Kelsey Plum, perhaps one of the unsung heroes of the Huskies roster has been senior Alexus Atchley.
Atchley, a senior from Yorba Linda, Calif., joined the Huskies as a walk-on transfer from Colorado, played a total of 152 minutes in 39 games during the previous two seasons. But, with Brianna Ruiz suffering a season-ending injury in Washington’s 63-47 win over Arizona on Jan. 10, Atchley has moved into a starting role, averaging 5.1 ppg this season.
“Alexus has been absolutely tremendous in our success,” said UW junior forward Kelsey Plum. “She gets those 50/50 balls, she gets big rebounds, and, in addition, she just knocks down shots. Her growth throughout the season and her ability to be able to step into a role that she didn’t start out being is amazing and she’s a big part of why we’re here.”
We caught up with Atchley ahead to tonight’s Final Four showdown with BR-11 Syracuse.
Your sister ran track at UW. How much of an influence did that have on your decision to become a Husky?
That was the main reason I even considered UW; she loved it so much. She ran track and she absolutely loved it. She spoke so highly of not only the sports, but the school and the area, so that’s the main reason that I looked at Washington first.
You went from being a walk-on at Colorado to being a co-captain at Washington and you’re two wins away from winning a national title. How special have these past two seasons been for you?
The whole journey has had it’s ups and downs. I’m definitely at the high point and I’m feeling really blessed to be here. [Head coach Mike] Neighbors has been awesome just giving me the opp to begin with to come to Washington and my teammates just being so supportive and encouraging the whole way through. I’m just really blessed and humbled to be here.
Coach Neighbors talked about the response from the team when it was announced that you had been awarded a scholarship. What was going through your mind when that happened?
He had actually told me right before, so I was kind of prepared emotionally. But, that’s an amazing feeling. That was so huge for me and my family. And just a dream come true.
You’re a Southern California native. What was the biggest adjustment to living in the Pacific Northwest?
It rains a lot more in Seattle than it does in Southern California, so that was definitely a change. Also, moving away from your family and being on your own and doing adult things, but it’s been great. Having this team as my family in Seattle helps so much.
Several of the players on the UW roster are from Washington State. How much has that helped with adjusting to life in Seattle?
Their families are really close to where we are, so they’re always at the games. They’re always at the game and they’re so awesome to us. Katie (Collier’s) mom always brings us little goodies after each home game, so that was always great. This last year, my parent’s travelled a lot to most of the games so I got to see my family a lot this year more than any other year. I think they’ve went to almost went to every single game this year. I think they realized that ‘oh, it’s her last year.’ I’m really blessed for them to be able to be with me through it all.
How much has going up against Kelsey Plum improved your game? And how does going against her in practice prepare you when you usually draw the toughest defensive assignments?
Yeah, I usually get stuck guarding her. But, she’s awesome. She’s so good at what she does, which is everything. It pushes me and I also try to push her. It’s really good – we’re both super competitive so practices are fun going against her. She’s one fo the best in the nation, and you can’t get much tougher than her.