The late John Wooden once said, “a coach must never forget that he is a leader, and not merely a person with authority.”
Wooden’s words hold true for LaGuardia Community College women’s basketball head coach Anthony Alfaro. At the junior college level, there is a focus on the student-athletes to not only achieve on the basketball court, but in the classroom as well.
The LaGuardia Community College Red Hawks finished the season with a record of 23-8 overall, going 13-3 at home, 9-3 on the road, and 1-2 on neutral courts.
LaGuardia had five players average double-digit points a game, with freshman guard Briana Johnson leading the way with 15.5 points per game. Kailyn Richburg (13.9 points), Marika Gordon (12.0 points), Lexis Valentin (10.6 points), and Sarah Edwards (10.5 points) were the others.
The Red Hawks outscored their opponents by a margin of 15.4 points per game while connecting on 142 made three pointers this season.
We caught up with Head Coach Anthony Alfaro to get know the women’s basketball program at LaGuardia Community College. Coach Alfaro takes a look back at the 2015-16 season and talks about how he got into coaching basketball, where the women’s basketball program is headed, and some of the biggest lessons he teaches his players both on and off the court.
What got you interested in being a basketball coach?
I got married, had some kids and in that time I was coaching/playing men’s softball. Had played on my uncle’s team and some of my friends were on that team. So I took over our competitive softball team.
Did you play basketball while you were growing up in New York?
Played as a kid, got cut from my JV basketball team as a freshman, switched to baseball.
You grew up in Hollis Hills, NY about 45 minutes from Madison Square Gardner. Did you go to many games?
I watched a lot of them on TV, saw the end of the Frazier era, I got to see the Bill Bradley era, and John Starks era.
You won the 2016 CUNYAC Championship over Bronx CC. What was that moment like for your coaching staff and team?
We had two returning players, the rest of them were freshmen coming in, a very different group. We believed in keeping them grounded, they were a special group early on, and were over confident. I believe they were a game to game effort, with overwelming joy, and some of them never won a championship going back to their high school days.
What is the biggest off-the-court lesson you teach your players?
It’s Academics, we had a 3.1 Team G.P.A. this past year, life is not basketball, and when you get done in college, its about life.
What do you look for in a recruit for them to play for LaGuardia CC?
I look for eye contact, good grasp on reality, and tell them that the only way to progress is to develop.
Do you recognize and reward the players who do the little things in practice or in games?
We do a Player of the Week practice award, it gets voted on, and the winning player gets players socks, a t-shirt, or some equipment stuff. We also do a Take a Charge drill in practice.
How did the Take a Charge drill come to be?
I saw it done by a men’s team at their Midnight Madness, so looked it up, and we now do it.
You return some of your leading scorers such as G Briana Johnson and G Lexis Valentin. Talk a little about what each player brings to the Redhawks.
Briana Johnson came from a good blood, her aunt runs a basketball academy, and her uncle is a men’s basketball coach as well. What I didn’t realize is that she had the hunger to improve her game, she became a high percentage shooter, she was a pleasant surprise. She had some really good runs, she was national player of the week. She was a big surprise with her play.
Lexis was an unsigned at a senior showcase event that I attended. I showed her it was a great opportunity to showcase her game. She started off slow, but grew as the season went along. She told me she wasn’t scoring enough and told her that basketball is about math.
What is your early outlook for the 2016-2017 team so far this off-season?
We are returning 7 girls, one of our girls red-shirted last year.
What do you want LaGuardia CC’s women’s program to be known for?
We want to be known for having kids that excel in academics and on the court. hard working student athletes, that go to four year universities.
What is the support like from LaGuardia CC students, fans in the community, and the administration?
We have good support and from the administration.
– T. Brinkley
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