BY PHIL NOVOTNY
Home is where the heart is. That’s especially the case for junior point guard Elena de Alfredo. Standing at 5’8”, the Madrid, Spain native has played for eight years as a member of Spain’s Under-14, Under-18 and Under-20 teams.
“Playing for the National Team was one of the best experiences of my life and my basketball career,” de Alfredo said. “Having the possibility to represent your country with your best friends doing what you love, is just something indescribable with words.”
When she played for Spain’s U18 squad at the 2012 European Championship, de Alfredo averaged 12.3 points per game in nine games and went 22 for 45 from three-point range along with ranking third in the tournament in field-goal percentage.
“It [playing for the Spanish National Team] helped me to mature, to get experience and learn how to play with pressure and gain self-control,” de Alfredo said. “I would never trade that experience for anything else.” n
After high school, Alfredo decided that she was going to take the next step of her basketball career to the United States.
“The decision to come to the United States was not easy because you have to leave your family, your friends and your country,” de Alfredo said. “However, the possibility to come to the States was always a dream for me and these are the experiences that just happen one time in your life.”
For the next two seasons, she played at the University of Toledo and appeared in 48 games with the Rockets. As a freshman, she put up 15 points in 16 minutes against rival Kent State. In her sophomore season, she notched 17 points and four rebounds along with three 3-pointers in a clash with UW-Whiteside.
Even with flashes of success in her two years at Toledo, de Alfredo still had to deal with the transition to a different style of play on the court as well.
“American basketball is very different,” de Alfredo said. “The rules aren’t the same, the game is quicker and the basketball style is just completely opposite to European basketball.” For example, she mentions that the shot clock is 24 seconds in Europe in comparison to 30 seconds. Also, the concept of one-and-one free throws did not exist in Europe until they changed it this year.
Due to the different style on the American stage, she is focused on improving on her quickness, physicality and her defense as her playing career progresses. “In general, those are aspects that I still have to improve on and I still have a long way to go,” de Alfredo said.
When looking for schools, de Alfredo was instantly intrigued by the University of Tampa and was looking for a balance of seriousness and togetherness among her teammates and her coaching staff.
“When I was looking at schools, I was looking for a place where I could feel at home,” de Alfredo said. “I was also looking for a coach and a team that really express a family environment and at the same time the seriousness when it was time to work.”
In addition to wanting a place to call home, de Alfredo noted that the facilities also played a major role in coming to UT. “This is a Division II school that has the facilities of a Division I [school] and even better than most of them,” de Alfredo said.
Head coach Tom Jessee also took notice of de Alfredo during the recruitment process, and pointed out her work ethic and leadership abilities.
“I needed a point guard that could shoot and had experience,” Jessee said. “She is driven to be great. She works harder than anyone at her game and she is a natural leader.”
In 19 games with the Spartans this season, de Alfredo is averaging 45.6 percent from the field and 44.9 percent from three-point range. She also averages an impressive 12.8 points per game, good for eighth overall in the conference, along with 3.9 rebounds and 3.0 assists.
Looking back at her decision to come to UT, de Alfredo does not regret becoming a part of the Spartan community. “Coming to Tampa was and is the best decision I could make. I am extremely happy here and I’m very thankful for it.”
Jessee is counting on de Alfredo to be a role model and set precedents for UT basketball going forward.
“Her work ethic is second to none so she will hold her teammates to the same standards,” Jesse said. “I wish I had her for four years but our program is in great hands while she is here.”