It doesn’t feel like six years has gone by, Alex Wittinger said, since she became a varsity athlete at Delano.
As a wide-eyed seventh-grader on the track team, the future, especially college, seemed far away.
“I don’t feel like a senior,” said the 6-2 Wittinger, a three-sport standout who also plays volleyball and basketball. “I feel like I could be a freshman again.”
Wittinger talked with staff writer Jim Paulsen about her stellar athletic career at Delano and why she chose to further it as a basketball player at the University of Illinois.
Q What do you remember about your first experience as a varsity athlete?
A It was track, and since they don’t have a track team for younger kids at Delano, seventh grade is the earliest you can start. It was really cool running with the older kids.
Q Why did you decide to pursue basketball in college?
A I was deciding between volleyball and basketball. I chose basketball because I like it the most and it’s the place where I can use my athleticism better.
Q What makes you a good basketball player?
A I’m tall and I have a pretty good vertical [jump]. I’m good at rebounding and blocking shots. Blocking shots is the thing I like to do the most. It comes pretty naturally.
Q Would you rather make a game-winning basket or block an opponent’s attempt at a game-winner?
A Probably block the shot. I like the fact that as a shot-blocker, you make people nervous about getting into the paint.
Q What is your favorite high school athletic memory?
A Probably going to the state volleyball tournament [Delano was the Class 3A runner-up in 2013]. We’ve gone to state in track, but it’s not the same as making it as a team. You get to stay in hotels, miss school. The whole town shut down to come watch. It was pretty awesome.
Q Do you think you appreciate things like that more now than you do when you’re experiencing them?
A We were pretty appreciative at the time. Even though we lost [in the finals], when we came home, we had fire trucks and a ton of cars lined up as we came back into town and a lot of people behind us, shouting and being supportive. It was really neat.
Q Talk about your college selection.
A At first I thought I was going to Marquette, but then they fired their coaches and that left a lot of uncertainty. So the recruiting process started over for me. Places like DePaul and Creighton and a lot of Big East schools were contacting me. Later I heard from Northwestern, Nebraska, Iowa State.
Q Why Illinois?
A I had four criteria for a college. One, it had to have an affiliated church. I belong to the International Church of Christ and they have a church with a strong campus ministry. Two, it had to have a good engineering program and Illinois is phenomenal in that. The best in the nation, which is a little bit scary. Third, it had to have a good basketball program and a good conference. Fourth was a close distance to home. I wanted to be a little closer, because Illinois is about eight hours away, but I felt I could fudge that a little.
Q What about the team itself?
A I love the coaches they have now. They came from [Wisconsin] Green Bay and they turned that into a phenomenal program.
Q How far can Delano go this year?
A We have the capabilities to go to state. We have a tougher schedule this year, so we’ve lost a few more games, but I think we’re a lot better because we’ve learned from that. But we’ll have to play our best. No slacking.