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Last stop for Alexander

BY BRENT GRIFFITHS | JULY 15, 2015 5:00 AM

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He should be.

Those three words continually come up when basketball coaches describe Dondre Alexander. Just the thought of having him on their roster makes them salivate.

His Prime Time League coach, Dan Ahrens, whose team also includes Adam Woodbury, is blunt about how he stacks up.

“He’s the best player in the league,” Ahrens said.

But what happens on the court is not the full story.

“I’ve been on his butt for two years that he needs to work on all parts of his life,” Ahrens said. “Hopefully, this summer is the time he turns his life around. He’s made a lot of dumb-ass decisions, and it’s time to start making good ones.”

Since his senior year in high school, Alexander’s career has been marred by suspensions and two unspecified violations of team rules.

As a result, the now-21-year-old’s prospects of playing Division-1 ball were dashed and a later rebirth in junior college proved unsuccessful.

For now, Alexander is a part of a dominating team in Prime Time League that includes a roster packed with talent. 

Ahrens’ Jill Armstrong Team sits at 5-1 and leads the league with one set of regular-season games left to play Thursday.

In that run, Alexander has averaged 25.2 points per game, and he logged a triple-double on July 2.
He’s been a standout this summer, but in February 2013 he left the Iowa City West team shortly before the team completed its undefeated run to the title in his senior year.

Looking back, Alexander said, he was suspended twice his senior season. The first time was for three games after a postgame verbal altercation. He was later arrested for trespassing in Coralville, but his second suspension came later in the season.

It’s that suspension, which would have extended to the state basketball playoffs, that produced the vaguely described “violation of team rules.” Athletics Director Scott Kibbe declined to elaborate on the situation beyond saying that “due process” was followed.

Alexander contends he was spotted in an Iowa City bar and someone later relayed this information to high-school officials. Later on, Alexander said he was asked to take a drug test, which he refused. With only a few games left and feeling that he had been treated unfairly, Alexander decided to leave the program in the midst of his suspension.

Before an abrupt end to his high-school career, Alexander had committed to play basketball for Southern Mississippi. Recruiters were aware of what happened at West High, he said, but last-minute concerns over academics prevented him from going to Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

Through an assistant, State Fair Community College head coach Kevin Thomas heard that Alexander was looking for another team. In the summer of 2014, he traveled to Prime Time to see Alexander play for the first time and left impressed.

“You could just tell that he had a feel for scoring the ball even with a lot of Division-1 players,” Thomas said.

As a freshman, Alexander struggled early, but Thomas said his game matured toward the end of the season. Entering his second year, Alexander was considered “one of the top guards in junior-college basketball,” Thomas said.

Calls from Tennessee, Wichita State, and the Black and Gold came into Sedalia, Missouri. A return to Division-I basketball seemed within reach.

Then came another “violation of team rules,” and once again Alexander was forced to look elsewhere. Thomas declined to elaborate on what happened, but Alexander said his violation was connected to numerous violations in his dorm room.

“Talent has never been an issue with Dre; his decisions are something he has always struggled with,” Thomas said. “I pray that he figures it out.”

Alexander’s transcript from the time is bare; the violations caused him to leave campus one week before his finals. 

After taking a couple of weeks to reassess everything, NAIA school William Penn inquired about him. Head coach John Henry said he “had to pinch himself” at the possibility of bringing in the talented player.

“I didn’t necessarily think a kid like him would end up here,” Henry said, noting that he was excited about plugging Alexander into his run-and-gun offense. “We love to score a lot of points; we’re very fast-paced and shoot the 3 a lot.”

Henry is well aware of Alexander’s past but has no complaints thus far — which he was quick to emphasize. In Henry’s eyes, playing for the Statesmen could well be Alexander’s last chance to play college basketball.

That said, he isn’t the first player with a complicated backstory whom Henry has coached.

“We just tell them straight-up that there is a reason you ended up here at little ol’ William Penn, so you better make the best of it, or you won’t be here, either.”

Looking at his past, Alexander said he would certainly change a few things. But he is not disappointed. No matter the size of the school he plays for, he says, someone will find him.

“I just need to put a jersey on and play,” Alexander said. “If you’re talented, they will find you regardless of where you are.”


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