Long way ‘round: St. John’s frosh settles into role with Storm

Long way ‘round: St. John’s frosh settles into role with Storm
St. John’s Athletics
By Jon Perez

All it takes is one game to snowball into a good month and after that a good season.

For St. John’s guard Alisha Kebbe, the Red Storm’s victory over Fordham in the Bronx Dec. 13 did just that.

The freshman tallied a season-high 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds en route to an easy 59-45 win over the local-rival Rams. It was that game that sparked Kebbe to three Big East freshman of the week awards and has her coaches thinking she’s on the fast track to Big East freshman of the year.

Kebbe is averaging 7.5 points per game and 3.9 rebounds through the first 19 games of her freshman campaign and already has WNBA scouts buzzing. She said she’s happy with her decision to play in Queens.

“We have so much talent and so much depth,” Kebbe said. “I just really connect with them because they’re all goofy, funny and we all relate in some sort of way. It just makes me feel more comfortable being here.”

Kebbe is only listed at 5 feet 10 inches, but has the kind of athleticism that has made coaches marvel. In an exhibition game her freshman year at Neumann-Gorreti High School in Philadelphia, Kebbe went up for a rebound and easily cleared over another player. Her coach and godmother, Andrea Peterson looked at her assistant coaches and asked if her eyes were deceiving her.

Her athleticism caused Peterson to put some restrictions on her star player.

“Ever since then, I said ‘this kid has special ability,’” Peterson said. “She’s just a natural athlete, she’s a freak athlete. Sometimes in practice, she would go so hard and we would say, ‘Alisha, slow down a second.’ She would make me nervous because she would jump so high and jump over the top of people.”

At Neumann-Gorreti, Kebbe and guard Kamiah Smalls – now playing at James Madison – were the one-two punch for the Saints. Over her last two seasons, the Saints went a combined 60-1; however, in Queens, Kebbe feels more than ever that she’s part of a team – and she couldn’t be happier.

“In high school, it was two of us,” Kebbe said. “Now it’s a team effort. [In high school] I had to do everything right [and] I couldn’t mess up.”

While Kebbe is having success in Queens, it was a long journey to Utopia Parkway. She originally signed a National Letter of Intent to play for Syracuse, before finding her way to the Red Storm. Kebbe ultimately enrolled at St. John’s – far later than most freshman, particularly those set to join a Division I basketball program.

St. John’s had recruited Kebbe for years and Red Storm coach Joe Tartamella was quick to jump at the chance to get her into the program.

“We were trying to fill holes at that time,” Tartamella said. “We always felt she was a player that was going to help our program if we had an opportunity to get her here, we were willing to do so. Obviously we had conversations after that and thankfully she’s here.”

Kebbe hasn’t let her preseason roadblocks distract her. She listened to those around her, kept her head down and, most importanlty, found a way to put the ball in the basket. Peterson and Tartamella never doubted what she was capable of and now, Kebbe believes it as well.

“When everything went down, I was feeling bad,” Kebbe said. “[Coach Peterson] just told me to keep my head up, ‘There’s a lot of schools out here that want you, you’re a very good player and I just depended on her through the whole process and she got me to a school.”