By Simon Brady
There’s an old saying that goes “When the door closes, a window opens.” This directly applies to brand new graduate assistant for UT’s women’s basketball squad, Elena De Alfredo. After playing for UT the past two seasons, De Alfredo will now continue to make an impact on the team she played for just a year ago, from the sideline.
De Alfredo, who captained the Spartans the past two years, is certainly qualified for her new position. During her brief career at UT, the outstanding point guard averaged 35.2 minutes and 13.2 points per game, and shot an efficient 85.8 percent from the free throw line. De Alfredo also collected 236 rebounds, 172 assists, and 50 steals in her tenure, proving to be a versatile player who makes a positive impact on the court in many different ways. These impressive statistics earned De Alfredo some impressive accolades; such as Sunshine State Conference (SSC) Newcomer, All SSC First Team Selection, and a Second Team All-South Region selection.
De Alfredo was also given the Academic Achievement Award (ADA) and named Academic All District. With the combination of success on the court and in the classroom, De Alfredo undoubtedly has the credentials for joining the women’s basketball staff.
In addition, De Alfredo also has a unique path to her stardom at UT, allowing her to be an extremely helpful mentor to this year’s players. The Madrid native was forced to adjust to the unfamiliarity of basketball in the U.S at a young age. She played her first two collegiate years for Mid American Conference program Toledo, appearing in 48 total games. This year’s UT players, especially the few incoming division I transfers taking a similar path as she did, can benefit greatly by learning from De Alfredo’s unique path.
De Alfredo revealed how she plans to use her experience to help the incoming transfers adjust to their new life on and off the court.“My advice is to trust the process and never give up. If things didn’t work out before, it doesn’t mean they won’t work now. When I transferred, I didn’t know what to expect, but I trusted coach Jessee and the program, and now Tampa has become my second home.”
With De Alfredo suiting up for the Spartans as a player just one year ago, she will be coaching players who were her previously teammates of her’s, and newcomers between transfers and incoming freshman who she needs to get acclimated with as the season progresses. However, because De Alfredo has been through plenty of ups and downs as a college player, she’s confident that she’ll be able to lend a hand to all players regardless of what path they took to get to UT.
“Honestly, I’m excited about both groups of players, I have experienced almost every emotion you can experience as a basketball player, not just in Tampa, over all my years of playing,” said De Alfredo. “I have been at the top and at the bottom, I have doubted myself and I have also been very confident. I have also experienced what it’s like to have manage the dual life of a student-athlete, so I am eager to help any of the players with whatever they need me to.”
UT Women’s Basketball head coach Tom Jessee is very pleased to now work alongside De Alfredo after being her coach just a year ago. He spoke on what made De Alfredo so special as a player, and how she can transition that to being an effective coach this year. “She played the game at a very high level of success which will allow her to have an understanding of the way things need to work,” said Jessee. “She has a great basketball IQ and she understands our system here at Tampa.”
Coach Jessee went on to explain the difficulty of De Alfredo smoothly transitioning from coaching players who she’s just a year removed from playing with. “This is the most challenging thing for Elena. I expect her to be fine with it as she will be doing a lot of work this first year that won’t have a direct dialog with the players but she will be a professional in handling the players when she is in a coaching spot with them,” said Jessee.
When projecting the outlook of this year’s squad, De Alfredo’s departure as a player is certainly a tough one. However, given that one of her best qualities as a player was her leadership and making others around her better, her presence from the sidelines will have a positive impact on this year’s team. And with plenty of newcomers and returning players who will have to fill bigger roles due to departures like De Alfredo, it’s an addition that makes perfect sense for this coaching staff.