NORTH COURTLAND — For Alex Gholston, the curtain call is approaching.
Heading into Class 1A, Area 16 tournaments this week for her final postseason run with R. A. Hubbard High (16-5), it’s the only thing on her mind.
The 5-foot-6 starting point guard has been potent since she started playing with head coach Nick Vinson in seventh grade. She helped Hazelwood win the state championship in 2009 and R. A. Hubbard take the title in 2011.
Hazelwood and R.A. Hubbard consolidated in 2009.
Chiefs coach Nick Vinson said he has had college coaches eyeing Gholston since her eighth-grade year.
And it isn’t just basketball.
Gholston holds state records in track and field for Class 1A in the 200-meter and 400-meter events, and she recently committed to run track at Alabama this fall.
For the Gholston family, sports are no stranger. Her three older brothers played football, basketball and track across Lawrence County, and her cousin, Amber Jones, played basketball at Hazelwood and UAB.
Gholston said Jones, a two-time Alabama Sports Writers Associate All-State selection, was a big force behind her basketball drive.
“I remember watching her and, more than anything, was just amazed at her. She made me want to play,” Gholston said. “You could tell she was the best player her whole high-school career.”
Even her jersey number, 23, is modeled after Jones, who wore number 22 at Hazelwood.
For a moment, Gholston was known as “Amber’s cousin,” but it didn’t take long to make a name for herself.
“She started on that team that won a championship in ’09, so that just kind of solidified her as a kid who could play,” said Vinson, as Gholston started with four seniors while in eighth grade.
“She held her own on that team,” he continued.
This year, the biggest difference for Gholston has been the transition to functioning as a leader. The youngest of four, and accustomed to being the youngest on the squad, she said that role doesn’t come to her naturally.
“I’m not used to leading, I’m used to somebody telling me what to do and helping,” she said.
Speak with Gholston’s teammates, however, and they have no doubt she’s the team’s frontrunner.
“She’s a cool person to be around. She keeps you laughing. When we’re around each other, it’s always a good vibe,” said Ashlen McCoy, a 5-foot-2 junior guard.
The same build and the same position, McCoy noted Gholston makes the game look easy.
“I’m little, so I’ll think, ‘She drives to the goal like it’s so easy,’ ” McCoy said. “It’s easier for her because she has a lot of (ball) handles.”
Her brothers, who come to every game, are some of Gholston’s biggest critics. Sitting on the front row at every game, they are the first to provide feedback.
“My brothers tell me I miss all my easy shots and that I make all my hard ones,” Gholston said, adding that they also come down hard on her free throws and layups.
Still, Gholston said she likes the feedback.
“When she wins, we kind of tweak the game — don’t get behind, or more in front,” her father, Freddie Gholston said. “We encourage her.”
This season, Alex Gholston has learned to adapt on the court, switching to post at times, getting around teams that mark the starting point guard.
“She was always saying, ‘I’m going to play post one day. I’ll be down there with you all one day, and I will show you how to do it,’ ” said Kelley Hampton, a senior forward. “I don’t think she expected how rough it can get down in the post, but she got the hang of it.”
Averaging 24 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists per game, Alex Gholston is more poised and more patient her senior year — taking things one game at a time. Now it’s the area tournament, which opens Thursday at R. A. Hubbard.
“It’s all I think about,” she said.
Contact Meredith Qualls at 256-340-2395 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Position: Starting point guard
Commitment: Track and field at Alabama
Pre-game ritual: During warmups, shoots a left and right-handed layup once the court clears