USC women's basketball, Alexyz Vaioletama not blinded by success
SAN FRANCISCO – Cynthia Cooper-Dyke's players seem to have an unparalled work ethic. During 2014-15 Pac-12 Women's Basketball Media Day on Wednesday, what the USC Trojans head coach said of forward Alexyz Vaioletama's summer made you believe it.
"I was mad at Alexyz," Cooper said, half-joking. "She worked too hard over the summer."
Vaioletama was held out of the first week or so of practices with three minor injuries, all the result of her relentlessness in the gym. Cooper isn't too worried about Vaioletama, who is now healthy, because she knows her senior forward is leading the right way.
"It's just a testament to who she is as a person," Cooper said.
USC turned into the surprise of the Pac-12 last year, winning four straight to take the conference tournament in Seattle. Suddenly, the expectations changed for 2014-15.
It apparently hasn't gotten to the Trojans' heads. Getting better every day is the plan, and the USC "Fight On" motto is easy to tie to it.
Vaioletama, who played at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, Calif. has been leading the charge with high school teammate Kiki Alofaituli. More specifically, they've been working hard to develop perhaps the most curious piece of the team, redshirt sophomore Jordan Adams, also a Mater Dei product. Alofaituli and Vaioletama are trying to get the McDonald's All-American to reach her potential after injuries and confidence troubles stemming from those injuries held her back.
"For me and Kiki, we had a set time with Jordan, and we just grind and grind," Vaioletama said. "We are constantly, really pushing each other, shoving each other."
"This summer, we did extreme things," she said, adding that they would sometimes hit the gym at 4 a.m. to get 100 shots in before formal workouts.
The Trojans, ranked sixth in the Pac-12 media day poll, hope they can surprise once again. If they do, all of the extra hours of work can be traced back to Cooper's arrival.
"She installed hard work, putting in the extra time on and off the court," Vaioletama said of her coach. "I think personally, what I have accomplished last year and learned last year is getting a little better every single day.
"Doing the small things is what helped us last year and what got us the championship and where we are now."