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UMHB guard thriving in new role after two-year absence from game

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Alyssa Dean is not like most players. She is far more experienced.

Following a standout high school career, the Houston native began playing for the University of Mobile, averaging 10.1 points per game during her sophomore season.

Then, she walked away from the game for two years after giving birth to her daughter in 2011.

The absence, however, left Dean longing for the court, and she returned with a vengeance.

Last week, a mere nine games into her career with Mary Hardin-Baylor, she cemented her place in school history by tying the Crusaders’ Division III-era single-season record for points in a game.

Like most guards, she passed off the credit to her teammates, though.

“I have a great support system,” Dean said of her UMHB family. “It is really nice to step into a program and automatically mesh as a team. I feel like anybody could be successful when you are a part of a team like that.”

Dean torched East Texas Baptist for 34 points, guiding the Crusaders to a 96-87 road victory before being named the American Southwest Conference Player of the Week on Monday.

It was the culmination of a long journey back to the sport she loved, and it almost did not happen.

“My husband just kept feeding it to me, saying, ‘What if you were to go back?’” Dean recalled. “It ended up working out. I feel like I ended up making a really great decision.”

Crusaders head coach Lisa Curliss-Taylor has plenty of reasons to agree.

Dean is averaging 14.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game in her short tenure with the team, starting seven times, including against the Tigers, when she connected on 14 of 20 field-goal attempts.

“She is hard to defend when she is going to the rim,” Curliss-Taylor said. “Someone is going to foul her the majority of the time or they are just not even there in rotation to defend her. … When she has an opening, she is pretty much going to get to the rim.”

Since Dean’s offensive outburst against East Texas Baptist, the Crusaders have won four consecutive games, beating UT-Tyler on Thursday to extend the streak. Dean finished with seven points in the victory.

With a 6-3 conference record (6-6 overall), Dean knows there is still work to do if the Crusaders are going to contend for the ASC championship, but she is willing to do anything possible to give her team an opportunity.

“I consider myself a role player,” she said. “I just try to give anything I can offer when I’m out there. Shooting, driving, playing defense, rebounding – overall just doing whatever I’m asked to do.”

Curliss-Taylor believes Dean’s job is more defined, though.

“Her main role right now is to score for us,” Curliss-Taylor said. “She has the green light, and she knows that when she goes in. There are some times she will pass something up, and I’m ripping her passing it up because she needs to look to score. She is not a role player; we look to her to score.”

Along with her responsibilities on the floor, Dean must find time to be both a student and a mother. Despite the hectic schedule, she relishes the chance to continue her career, and understands she could not do it alone.

“I have a great husband, great coaches, great teammates, and everybody knows the workload I have,” Dean said. “They see all the balancing going on, and they are all very supportive through it all.”

By Clay Whittington

Killeen Daily Herald

Alyssa Dean is not like most players. She is far more experienced.

Following a standout high school career, the Houston native began playing for the University of Mobile, averaging 10.1 points per game during her sophomore season.

Then, she walked away from the game for two years after giving birth to her daughter in 2011.

The absence, however, left Dean longing for the court, and she returned with a vengeance.

Last week, a mere nine games into her career with Mary Hardin-Baylor, she cemented her place in school history by tying the Crusaders’ Division III-era single-season record for points in a game.

Like most guards, she passed off the credit to her teammates, though.

“I have a great support system,” Dean said of her UMHB family. “It is really nice to step into a program and automatically mesh as a team. I feel like anybody could be successful when you are a part of a team like that.”

Dean torched East Texas Baptist for 34 points, guiding the Crusaders to a 96-87 road victory before being named the American Southwest Conference Player of the Week on Monday.

It was the culmination of a long journey back to the sport she loved, and it almost did not happen.

“My husband just kept feeding it to me, saying, ‘What if you were to go back?’” Dean recalled. “It ended up working out. I feel like I ended up making a really great decision.”

Crusaders head coach Lisa Curliss-Taylor has plenty of reasons to agree.

Dean is averaging 14.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game in her short tenure with the team, starting seven times, including against the Tigers, when she connected on 14 of 20 field-goal attempts.

“She is hard to defend when she is going to the rim,” Curliss-Taylor said. “Someone is going to foul her the majority of the time or they are just not even there in rotation to defend her. … When she has an opening, she is pretty much going to get to the rim.”

Since Dean’s offensive outburst against East Texas Baptist, the Crusaders have won four consecutive games, beating UT-Tyler on Thursday to extend the streak. Dean finished with seven points in the victory.

With a 6-3 conference record (6-6 overall), Dean knows there is still work to do if the Crusaders are going to contend for the ASC championship, but she is willing to do anything possible to give her team an opportunity.

“I consider myself a role player,” she said. “I just try to give anything I can offer when I’m out there. Shooting, driving, playing defense, rebounding – overall just doing whatever I’m asked to do.”

Curliss-Taylor believes Dean’s job is more defined, though.

“Her main role right now is to score for us,” Curliss-Taylor said. “She has the green light, and she knows that when she goes in. There are some times she will pass something up, and I’m ripping her passing it up because she needs to look to score. She is not a role player; we look to her to score.”

Along with her responsibilities on the floor, Dean must find time to be both a student and a mother. Despite the hectic schedule, she relishes the chance to continue her career, and understands she could not do it alone.

“I have a great husband, great coaches, great teammates, and everybody knows the workload I have,” Dean said. “They see all the balancing going on, and they are all very supportive through it all.”

Contact Clay Whittington at clayw@kdhnews.com

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