By SIMON BRADY
The road to stardom for the Sunshine State Conference Player of the Week and women’s basketball point guard Elena De Alfredo has certainly been a unique one. As a native of Madrid, Spain, she faced challenges on and off court that would test her love and passion for the game of basketball.
De Alfredo’s ability on the court was never A question, as she played for Spain’s national team for eight years. Her consistent success on this stage drew the attention of college scouts and recruiters who began to attend her games and evaluate her performance.
At an early age, De Alfredo was faced with a life changing decision as to where basketball would take her next.
“I thought about playing professionally in Europe at age 16,” De Alfredo said.
Although that opportunity was enticing, she decided that heading to the United States to attend college was the smarter choice.
This was certainly not a basketball decision exclusively. De Alfredo knew that from an educational standpoint, college was the most reasonable choice.
“I had a desire to go to school at a university,” De Alfredo said. “My parents and I wanted to avoid having to take online classes in Europe as my education.”
The chance to play in the U.S. at a university came from her teammate in Spain that ended up playing for Toledo University in Ohio. Once De Alfredo sent a highlight tape to the coaching staff at Toledo, they were willing to have her fly down for a tryout.
Despite all her experiences playing on the court, this tryout at Toledo was an experience unlike any other for De Alfredo.
“I had a friend come with me to the tryout to translate commands from the coaches because I didn’t speak fluent english at the time. At that time, I couldn’t have had this conversation I’m having with you right now,” De Alfredo said.
On top of the inability to speak english at the time, she was competing against the men from the Toledo team’s practice squad at her tryout.
“Practicing against the guys, there was a new level of physicality and speed I hadn’t seen before,” De Alfredo said. Despite the challenges De Alfredo was faced with, she performed at a high level and was offered a full scholarship to play for Toledo immediately after her tryout.
Although she was grateful for the opportunity to play at a Division I university, she wasn’t completely happy in her two years playing there. It began with an arm injury her freshman year that caused a major setback in her game, so much so that she said she couldn’t fully extend her shooting arm properly.
De Alfredo decided it was time to move from Toledo her sophomore year because she saw limited play time, and was unhappy playing shooting guard as opposed to point guard, her biggest strength positionally on the court.
Times became so tough at Toledo for De Alfredo that she even considered quitting basketball altogether and returning home to Spain. However, one man’s special belief in her not only as a player, but more importantly as an individual, revived her career. This would be UT women’s head basketball coach Tom Jessee.
Jessee saw De Alfredo play and contacted her for a tryout at UT. De Alfredo said Jessee “saw things in her he hadn’t seen in awhile.”
De Alfredo proceeded to visit Tampa and tryout for Jessee. She said it took a mere three minutes of her scrimmaging in the tryout for Jessee to pull her over to the sideline and say, “you need to come here, you’re going to be our point guard.”
De Alfredo knew that nothing would be given to her, even though she was stepping down from DI To DII. She also understood that the level of talent between the two divisions wasn’t much different.
Even though De Alfredo quickly realized the level of play for opponents of Toledo and UT were similar, there was a discrepancy between the two she discovered.
“The biggest difference between Division I and Division II is the size and toughness. IQ, speed and physicality were all very similar,” De Alfredo said.
Currently playing in her senior year, De Alfredo has already earned a spot on the Sunshine State Conference All-Newcomer team for her performance last year as a junior, recognizing her as one of the top first years players in the SSC.
This year, she has followed last season up with an even more impressive campaign, averaging 16.6 points per game on 45.7 percent shooting from the field, including a staggering 47.5 percent from a three point range. She also averages 4.1 rebounds and three assists per game, along with shooting an average of 85.1 percent from the free throw line on the season.
Jessee admires De Alfredo’s versatile shooting ability from multiple spots on the court above all her skills on the court.
“The best part of her game is her ability to shoot the ball from range as well as her great pull up game,” Jessee said.
De Alfredo chose not to discuss her greatest strengths on the court, though she holds UT’s all-time best career three-point shooting percentage at 45.8 and averages the sixth highest minutes per game average in school history at 33.9 minutes.
De Alfredo prioritizes and focuses on working as hard as she can to do what’s best for her team.
“Elena has matured as a player and in doing so has earned a spot as a captain,” Jessee said. “She leads by example everyday with her work ethic.”
As far as team goals that De Alfredo and her Spartan teammates set out to accomplish come season’s end, certainly winning a conference and regional championship comes up in conversation. This is a goal attainable for a squad currently at a 13-5 overall record, including 8-3 in the SSC.
However, at this moment, De Alfredo doesn’t want to concern herself with it just yet.
“Right now the focus is on one game at a time,” De Alfredo said. “The most important game of the whole season is the next one.”