In the first two conference games of the season for Men’s Basketball, Job Alexander’s name did not appear on the roster. Alexander was not in the starting five, and he was not a reserve. However, when the team dropped their first three conference games of the season, head coach Joe Callero did what many coaches in his position would do — he looked to the roster for a spark.
When the Mustangs faced off against UC Riverside on Jan. 23, Callero undoubtedly found the spark he was looking for. The Mustangs had a quick start to the match and held control throughout most of the first half. However, shortly before the halftime whistle, UC Riverside seemed to take over. The Highlanders’ rebounding ability hindered the Mustangs’ chances at scoring, and the momentum fell to UC Riverside as a result. That is when Callero subbed in Alexander for his first appearance in the Big West Conference.
“Now, you can see how quickly I went to the bench tonight,” Callero said. “I was looking for some energy, and we got Jared Rice in and we got [Alexander], who would have been not playing very much at all. We got [Alexander] in the middle of the zone. I thought he made some good passes and I thought he did a really good job off the bench for us.”
While Alexander was only able to register four points and two assists against the Highlanders, his performance was nonetheless impressive. The six-foot-four-inch, 200-pound transfer from Trinidad State drove at the basket with unexpected pace and helped mesh the team offensively with his clever passes.
It was no surprise Alexander had earned himself another appearance in the Mustangs’ next game against Cal State Fullerton. The junior guard knew it was his shot to prove himself.
“It’s all about having confidence,” Alexander said. “I just kept bringing it to practice, and when I got in the game, it wasn’t any different.”
That confidence was apparent in the way Alexander took control of his possessions against Fullerton. Drive after drive, Alexander continued to convert his chances. The hard-fought game left the Mustangs down by only six points with seven minutes left to play. While the remaining minutes resulted in a 17-point Fullerton victory, the the loss could have been worse without Alexander on the court. By the end of the match, he totaled a career-high 14-points and added four rebounds off the bench.
Alexander’s pace and strength are apparent in his play, but Callero believes his most important asset is his knowledge of the game.
“Probably the most important thing he’s brought is great basketball IQ,” Callero said. “He’s a very smart player, so he’s been very effective against zones. We’ve had him at the high-post at zone, we’ve had him against other teams where he’s been able to drive.”
In Cal Poly’s next game, the team was set to face UC Riverside. It had only been eight days since the Highlanders’ 74-51 victory against Cal Poly. However, for the first time all month, Alexander’s name did not appear on the reserves list. Instead, Alexander was listed as a starter. It had only taken the transfer player two chances to earn his spot on the team. While many fans were just starting to see Alexander’s talent, what they did not see were the months of hard work that led up to that moment.
“The work ethic has never changed, it was just constant,” Alexander said. “I didn’t let that I wasn’t getting in the game discourage my work ethic. I kind of stuck with it and it showed when I finally got my chance.”
In his first start with the team, Alexander did the same thing he had been doing all month — he took his shot. Alexander’s first layup of the night came only two minutes into the game. He registered the first of many defensive rebounds only minutes later. In the first half alone, the junior not only led the team in points, but also led in minutes played. Alexander’s performance in the second half was no different as he made each possession count. When the final whistle was blown, Alexander had set two new career-highs, totaling 15 points and six assists. Even better, Cal Poly had just won their first game in the Big West Conference.
“It’s been a great find. He started off early in the year getting some playing time. He needed to make some adjustments,” Callero said. “He’s been outstanding and it’s been critical. The big win we had at Riverside, Job was very, very important in.”
In the games since, the Mustangs have struggled to find success. However, Alexander said he hopes to can contribute as much as possible in the years ahead. For now, the guard has his eyes set on the Big West Tournament.
“Obviously, in the immediate future, [to make] the Big West Tournament,” Alexander said, stating his main goal. “All these games are going to help our seeding and prepare us for that tournament, so that’s an immediate goal.”