Pac-12 Feature: Alleyne stands out on and off the court

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Eric Evans

Jillian Alleyne and Maite Cazorla live at opposite ends of the spectrum on the Oregon women’s basketball roster.

Alleyne is the senior leader, a player with one of the most impressive individual resumes in the history of the conference. Cazorla is the upstart freshman from Spain, who has acclimated quickly to American collegiate basketball.

Both players are driving the Ducks toward the program’s best finish in conference play in more than a decade and a chance at the NCAA Tournament since 2004-05.

Oregon (19-6 overall) has won five in a row to improve to a tie for fifth place in the Pac-12 standings at 8-6.

Alleyne is averaging 18.6 points and 13.6 rebounds a game. Cazorla is averaging 10.4 points a game and 5.8 assists, leading the nation in assists among freshman guards.

Ducks head coach Kelly Graves said he challenged Alleyne, who took over the Pac-12 career rebounding record earlier this season, to lead the Ducks to the team success she’s already experienced as an individual.

“Her numbers are fantastic and I wouldn’t take anything away from that,” Graves said. “But in order to be considered one of the all-time greats, you have to help lead your team to postseason play. I think she’s embraced that. I don’t think she wants to be known as somebody who just put up great numbers.”

Alleyne, who is the national leader in double-doubles this season with 21, said that playing in the NCAA Tournament has been her goal from the beginning.

“Everything that coach said to me was right on,” Alleyne said. “I don’t want to go down as a player with great numbers on an unsuccessful team. I want to lead my team to the tournament and I hope I’ve been stepping up to the challenge.”

She is certainly serving as an example to Cazorla, who has made a smooth adjustment to her new country and Pac-12 basketball.

Cazorla has been named the Pac-12 Freshman of the Week four times, including the last three in a row. The first-year point guard has found her scoring touch in recent weeks, scoring at least 15 points in six of the last seven games.

“I felt well-prepared, but to be honest, I’m a little surprised at how well it’s been going,” Cazorla said. “I thought I would play good, I didn’t know I was going to play that well.”

Graves said Cazorla is more experienced than a typical freshman.

“She has an incredibly high basketball IQ and she plays like it,” Graves said. “She is a great floor general. With her, we are calm and spaced and running what we want to run. She has elite vision.”

Cazorla is far from home in the Canary Islands, her family able to come over to Oregon for the holidays to see her play.

Alleyne is well settled into the community in Eugene, her role cemented by her community service efforts – including a trip to the Dominican Republic last summer to build basketball courts with a group of student-athletes – and her involvement as a caregiver for a local special needs child.

Eight-year-old Harrison has Cerebral Palsy. Alleyne, who is majoring in communications disorders and science in order to become a speech pathologist, was hired last summer in a caregiving role. She spent the summer taking him on walks, to the mall and bringing him to practice. Harrison cannot communicate verbally, but Alleyne said his smile often tells her everything she needs to know.

“There are days when I’m so tired and he gives me energy because he’s happy to see me and happy to be with me. He gives me a lot of perspective,” Alleyne said. “He comes to our games. My teammates tell me they watch him watching the game, turning left and right, watching the action.”

And what he sees is a team that may be on the verge of a breakthrough.

“I wanted to be playing for something this season and we are getting to do that,” Alleyne said. “I came into this season wanting to give this team everything I had.”

Michelle Smith is a contributing writer for She has covered pro and college sports for espnW, the San Francisco Chronicle and AOL Fanhouse. 

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