Sharpshooter Xenakis finds Point Park to be the perfect fit

Written By Josh Croup

photo by Madison Turiczek
Junior guard Alexa Xenakis shoots a foul shot early in the second half of a
game last week.

Four months before committing to Point Park, junior Alexa Xenakis did not even have the school on her radar. Now, she plays an important role on the women’s basketball team.

The 5-foot-6-inch junior guard was a standout at Keystone Oaks High School in the South Hills of Pittsburgh. She led her team to the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League (WPIAL) Class AA semifinals her senior year and also became the second player in Keystone Oaks history to achieve 1,000 points.

Xenakis reached the 1,000-point mark in February of her senior year. At that point, she had six colleges on her radar. All were close to home, but none of them were Point Park.

In June, Xenakis signed her letter of intent to play with head coach Tony Grenek at Point Park for the upcoming 2012-13 season.

“The first offer that I gave her, the family said, ‘Thanks but no thanks. We want to look at some different options,’” Grenek said.

Grenek then went to scout Xenakis more at the 2012 Roundball Classic, a game for the top players in the WPIAL. It was also at that game that he discovered current sophomore center Sam Weir, Xenakis’ teammate in the game.

“After seeing her play there, I made another push for her,” he said. “Luckily for us, she committed to us the second time.” Grenek loved what he saw. Xenakis said that after a few more dominos fell, he offered her a larger scholarship.

“There was no reason for me to go to any other school but this one,” Xenakis said. “I wouldn’t have changed anything. I love it here.”

After her freshman season, Point Park signed two players from Keystone Oaks’ rival Bishop Canevin High School.

“Celina and Carly were my biggest enemies,” Xenakis said. “I couldn’t stand that team, and they couldn’t stand us. It’s funny how it transforms and that now, we can put our talents together.”

Celina DiPietro and Carly Forse signed with Point Park after leading Bishop Canevin to a state championship victory and joined Xenakis the following season. “In high school, she was the one that we always had to watch out for,” DiPietro said. “The transition into college was really easy because she’s such a cool person. Playing with her is awesome.”

Xenakis is averaging 9.3 points per game this season and is the team’s third leading scorer. She is also the team’s leading and go-to three-point shooter.

She said she barely shot threes in high school and was encouraged by Grenek to take the open shot. She was told that if she didn’t shoot, she wouldn’t play.

“Nobody works harder than her on the basketball court whether its on the court or in practice or even on her own,” Grenek said. “She really exemplifies what we want a Point Park women’s basketball player to be.”

I knew that she would turn into a sharpshooter for Point Park, Xenakis said that she would have worked on it more in high school.

“If I would have known that, I would have put up three-point shots my entire high school career,” Xenakis said. “If I don’t have practice, I’ll be in the gym. I’m the starting three-point shooter, that’s what I have to do.”

Perhaps even more important to Xenakis’ game is her aggressive defensive style of play. When an opposing team brings the ball up the court, Xenakis is at mid-court waiting for them. She is quick to move with the ball and has a game face that says, “try me.”

“I get made fun of a lot [for my face],” Xenakis said with a laugh. “You can have rewards for scoring a layup, making an assist or making a three-point shot. But there’s nothing better thank getting a steal on defense. I’d rather shoot seven air balls than let someone score on me.”

Point Park’s defense is one of the best in Division II this season. They are in the top 10 of six defensive categories in the nation.

“If you don’t have defense you can’t win games,” Xenakis said. “That’s what’s up.”

But while some may know her for her game on the court, current freshmen may know her as one of the first faces they met when they came to Point Park.

Xenakis spent this past summer as an orientation leader. She lived in Pittsburgh for the summer and staffed each of the Pioneer Experience orientation sessions for incoming freshmen and transfer students.

After two successful years at Point Park, Xenakis knew she had to focus her attention on something more than just basketball. Her future goals include a job that helps people, and the orientation leader position was perfect for her.

“As soon as I went to orientation, I thought that [Point Park] was the greatest thing ever,” she said. “I wanted to add on to that to give people the same experience.”

A recently declared sports, arts and entertainment management major, Xenakis plans to open her own gym someday and implement training sessions.

For now, she and the Pioneers prepare for the conference tournament. Xenakis said the team’s full potential has yet to come out.

“We could be unstoppable,” Xenakis said. “It’s the fact that we haven’t even done that yet that’s scary. We haven’t had a game where we’re all on. Hopefully that comes out in the conference tournament.”