WSU’s Swedlund dedicated herself to basketball from the beginning


Freshman guard Alexys Swedlund attempts a lay-up during a game against UC Santa Barbara in Beasley Coliseum, Nov. 8, 2015.

Dedication and perfection developed Washington State women’s basketball freshman guard Alexys Swedlund into the player she is today, but she didn’t do it alone.

Growing up in Rapid City, South Dakota, Shurald “Swede” Swedlund, Alexys’ father, preached being a team player over playing one against five on the court; but the one condition her father had when the two began developing her shooting form was that Alexys was not allowed to attempt three-point shots.

He wanted Alexys to learn the game the right way.

“That was big when we started in first grade working on the fundamentals of ball handling and the shooting, the right type of shooting drills,” Swede said. “She always had to shoot layups or shoot from inside. When you’re that age every kid just wants to shoot and let it fly. I was always a stickler to make sure she was getting the ball off at the right level.”

Coincidentally, just two games into the Cougar women’s basketball season, Swedlund leads the team in three-point attempts. The freshman has made 25 percent of her three-point attempts on 4 of 16 shooting while generating her chances from lessons learned from her father, by playing as a team.

The Cougars have gone to an inside-out offense this season under Head Coach June Daugherty. As a result, the team has combined to shoot just over 36 percent from beyond the arch, making 16 of 44 3-point attempts.

AAU basketball opening doors

Swedlund’s father was not a proponent of having his daughter play AAU basketball, because he felt it emphasized being less of a team player. But for one summer Alexys was able to play for South Dakota Attack to gain exposure and expand her game.

The opportunity allowed Daugherty to see Swedlund against some of the nation’s best women’s basketball high school players at a Nike camp in Chicago. From there, the door was open for her to be a part of the Cougar women’s basketball program.

“We were really impressed with her,” Daugherty said. “She immediately catches your eye of all the hundreds of teams that are there just because of how proficient she is as a three-point shooter.”

Following the camp Swedlund attended the WSU Elite Camp, allowing Daugherty and the coaching staff to get a full view of her abilities. Alexys was able to bond with the current players and returned during the 2014-15 season for her official visit and committed to WSU.

Once she returned to St. Thomas More High School for her senior season, Swedlund was able to see the difference in her game, having played at the highest level for high school players.

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“Everything was quicker,” Swedlund said. “You had to develop your shot to be quicker. You had to be quicker on defense. Being able to step up that split second was a big difference for me, especially when coming back to high school when things were a lot slower.”

Swedlund was named Miss Basketball South Dakota after finishing her senior season averaging 25.4 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game.

Gym rat mentality leading to high praise

Since she began holding a basketball the gym has been Swedlund’s second home. Her father noted she wouldn’t leave for the gym until 9 or 10 p.m. in order to get her school work done. Once she left the house she would stay in the gym for hours, putting up 600 to 700 shots every night to perfect her game.

That work ethic has carried over to her first season in Pullman and allowed her to find the success she has on the court.

“She’s a confident shooter because she’s in the gym all the time,” Daugherty said. “I think she’s worn out the shooting machine – she’s in the gym every day and she always has been, sometimes twice a day. I think she’s playing with a lot of maturity for a kid who’s a true freshman at Washington State.”

Daugherty said from a work ethic standpoint, Swedlund compares to Jazmine Perkins, who played at WSU from 2008-2012. Perkins finished her four-year career at WSU ninth in total points [1,288] and third in 3-point field goals made [144] in 122 games.

Swedlund’s goal was to become a Pac-12 player during her recruitment. Her parents will get to see first-hand Friday their daughter’s goal come true in Hawaii.

“She’s worked so hard for her dream and she’s always stayed focused on her dream,” her father said. “Playing at this level is an accomplishment for all the hours she’s put in the gym.”