By Jeremy McDonald
STAYTON, Ore.– It’s weird that some time away from it all can make you appreciate the thing you’ve stepped away even more.
For 2018 Stayton-Grad Alexa Bender, basketball has been her jam. Playing year-around from middle school through helping the Eagles to their first State Trophy since 2009 when they finished sixth in the 4A State tournament in 2018.
However, all that grind and pushing herself had burn-out the six-foot Forward that she needed a break from it all. Believing that if she would’ve jumped into a program straight out of High School, she’d be in a spot where she wasn’t necessarily happy.
But it was that year away that made her realize that her spot was back on the court, and made the most of it when she did.
“I think that without taking that year off when I did, I would’ve put myself into a situation where I wasn’t necessarily happy,” Bender starts. “I was seriously burnt out on basketball from playing almost year around since middle school and I felt like if I were to have went straight on to a college team from high school I would’ve been there for the wrong reason.
“That reason being that I felt like I had to be there and it was expected of me rather than going because I wanted to. In that year I felt lost without basketball and realized that being on the court truly did make me happy. I think it was important for me to realize this on my own and I went into that next season more focused and determined than ever to be the best player I could be.”
Bender joined the Chemeketa Community College squad for the 2019-2020 season. Helping the Storm of Salem to a 12-16 overall record and 7-9 in the NWAC South Region while averaging 11.2 points, 6.6 rebounds and three assist a game. Bender also was selected to the second team All-NWAC squad, first team All-Defense and was named to the Western Region All-Freshman team.
And though it was just a year at Chemeketa, there was something special about playing with the girls on the team.
“It’s been so fun playing with different girls, at Chemeketa we had a really diverse team which was cool to be a part of. I love getting to be on a team with new people and seeing different styles of players,” Bender said. “I think with every new person I play with I learn something new from them, whether that be on or off the court.”
Bender’s time at Chemeketa has helped to get her where she’s at now. In about a month Bender will be joining the Warner Pacific University Knights Women’s Basketball team and knows that the program she’s entering into will continue to push her to be the best athlete and player she can be.
“This is an amazing opportunity for me to play at Warner, and I think that they’re going to push me to be the best athlete and basketball player I can be,” said Bender. “I definitely wouldn’t be where I am right now without Chemeketa, they helped me grow so much over the last year and half. during my time there I learned more about the game of basketball and myself as an athlete which I think will help me tremendously at the next level.”
Photos By Jeremy McDonald