LSU’s president shoots for teamwork

F. King Alexander makes time for pickup games

A basketball team’s fortunes rise or fall on the point guard’s ability to execute the right decision. Depending on the defender’s move, he can drive to the basket, pass to a teammate or rise up for the open jump shot.

It’s a key position on a team that the King holding court at LSU — LSU President F. King Alexander — understands in more ways than one.

“You have to have a good team,” Alexander said. “You have to make sure everybody is doing (his or her) roles and parts. Everybody has his or her own set of talents, his or her own strengths and weaknesses, and the point is trying to bring those out.”

Since taking the top job at LSU, Alexander regularly has held pickup basketball games in the LSU basketball team’s recently constructed practice gym. The habit isn’t new, Alexander said; he’s done this at every stop throughout his career.

While most of the university is still asleep, Alexander squeezes 6 a.m. court appearances into his packed schedule twice a week to stay in shape and clear his mind.

“It’s a major stress reliever,” Alexander said. “Basketball is great because you don’t think about anything but basketball. When you’re on a treadmill, you think about work. When you’re jogging, all you think about is how much farther you have to go. Basketball lets me forget everything for an hour and get a good workout.”

The games are competitive, and Alexander doesn’t run with a crew of “yes-men” trying to score easy face time with the boss. The pool of regulars includes LSU assistant coaches, like baseball’s Javi Sanchez and Nolan Cain, both of whom played Division I baseball, athletic department personnel and even student managers.

Alexander, a left-handed point guard with a quick release honed during his college days at St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y., was a self-described “shooter” for the university’s basketball team, the Saints. He attended the upstate New York school during his undergraduate years after a futile attempt to convince then-coach Dale Brown to give him a scholarship at LSU.

He claims his jumper has grown inconsistent with age — he’s pushing 51 — but he buried his final three jumpers to seal a 12-9 victory in a pickup game the Friday morning before Mardi Gras. The groups play multiple games to 12.

“I was hot at the end,” Alexander said afterward. “It’s on and off.”

Over the summer, Alexander spent a day practicing with the practice facility’s main tenants, the LSU’s men’s and women’s Tiger basketball teams.

After going through shoot-arounds and drills with the man who oversees their university, Tiger veteran guards Anthony Hickey and Andre Stringer were impressed. Besides thinking it was weird not seeing the chancellor in a suit, the backcourt tandem offered similar assessments.

“Great shooter,” Stringer said.

“He can really shoot it,” Hickey echoed.

Even when the court at the facility is unavailable or 10 players can’t be found, Alexander has to get in his hoops. On numerous occasions, Alexander said he has sneaked over to the LSU Recreation Center to fit in some action.

“I throw on a hoodie and nobody recognizes me,” Alexander said. “It’s kind of nice. Everybody just wonders who is that old guy on the court.”