Queen Alford grew up playing basketball on the breezy, outdoor courts of Decatur’s Wilson Apartments, competing mostly against bigger, older boys. During an interview last year Alford said, “For a long time I was nothing but a scrub.”
Those days are long gone. A 5-10 freshman guard for Jacksonville University women’s basketball team, Alford was recently named the Atlantic Sun Conference’s Freshman of the Year. She also earned second team all-conference honors along with making the league’s all-freshman team.
“It’s a huge honor, not only for Queen, but also for our program,” Decatur High girls basketball coach Bill Roberts said Wednesday. “It shows how far determination and hard work can get you. Few people understand the commitment, the time and effort you have to give to your sport. Queen had all that long before I met her, I was just able to facilitate her interest.”
Alford played her last two years at Decatur High for Roberts, averaging 24 points per game as a junior and 22 as a senior, finishing her prep career a shade below 1,900 points.
Roberts helped place Alford with the Georgia Metros AAU squad, which got her on the national recruiting map.
This past season she led Jacksonville in scoring at 11.6 points, was second in rebounding at 6.4 per game and hit a remarkable 45 percent of her three-point shots (27 of 60), though she didn’t have enough attempts to qualify for conference leadership (the A-Sun leader made 40.8 percent of her three pointers).
Alford is that she didn’t enter the starting lineup until February, a decision that, in part, may have cost Jacksonville Coach Jill Dunn her job. Dunn was fired Tuesday after eight years at the helm and an 11-19 record this past year.
Alford would start only 11 games but she made the most it. Over the regular season’s final nine games she averaged 16.7 points, 8.6 rebounds, shot 51 percent from the floor, 63 percent beyond the arc and was twice named the A-Sun’s Newcomer of Week.
With Alford playing full-time at shooting guard the Dolphins won four of their last five regular season games before losing in the first round of the conference tournament.
“I’ve never really been impressed with stats because I’m a perfectionist,” Alford said in that same interview. “I’m very self-critical, which can sometimes be like a curse. I’m never satisfied because nobody can ever play a perfect game.”
Roberts did talk with Alford Tuesday night and said the player was upset about Dunn’s firing.
“She’s in a situation where some other schools will come after her,” Roberts said. “But you know, she’s in a good place, she’s begun to establish herself academically. If she transfers now she’d have to sit out a year. But more that, I told her last night, it’s not about going to the institution where you can play, it’s about the institution you can graduate from.
“I think for Queen,” he added, “Jacksonville’s the right place. It’s a smaller school, which is a good fit for her, and in one year she’s already made herself one of that conference’s best players.”
Roberts, who just completed his third year at Decatur with a 23-8 record and Elite Eight appearance, plans for more to follow in Alford’s footsteps.
Senior Jordan Dillard, who led Decatur in scoring with an 18.5 average, signed a letter-of-intent with Villanova University in November. Lightning-quick point guard Jayla Morrow, though only a freshman, and only 5-2, was second in scoring at 8.5 points and is already drawing attention from college coaches.