MIDDLEBURY, Vt. — Behind every successful basketball team is a talented point guard capable of leading the group and making the offense go.
For the Middlebury College women’s basketball team, that point guard is Lynn native Alex Huffman.
The starting point guard for the Division III Panthers, Huffman has found herself a key role as the team’s floor general. She enters her junior season after starting all 25 games last winter as a sophomore, averaging 5.1 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists per contest.
“I got a lot of minutes last year,” Huffman said. “The coaches are looking for me to keep that role and take it to the next level this season. I’m looking to take command on the court and help us win games.”
A product of Lynn’s KIPP Academy, Huffman recognizes that playing the point guard position brings no shortage of challenges. Although she’s still learning the ins and outs of the role and working to improve her craft, Huffman has full confidence in her abilities to lead the Panthers’ offense.
“It’s definitely a work in progress, understanding that things can get hectic and my coaches and teammates look for me to slow things down,” Huffman, a 2015 KIPP graduate, said. “I’ve been a point guard my whole career so it’s good that I have experience under my belt. It can be a challenge but it’s a work in progress, holding the team down and helping us keep our composure.”
This season, Huffman’s focused on emerging as an offensive threat for Middlebury. While point guards are often taught to build a “pass-first” mentality, making a habit out of passing up open shots isn’t something Huffman’s looking to do.
“I’m looking to be more of a threat offensively,” Huffman said. “I’ve been a pass-first point guard and that’s the mentality I’ve had in the past. Sometimes I tend to overpass and that can lead to turnovers. This year, I’m looking to keep control of the ball and capitalize on chances to score.”
Middlebury enters the 2017-2018 campaign with high hopes after a successful run last winter. In 2016-2017, the Panthers went 17-8 while winning six of their 10 games against New England Small College Athletic Conference opponents. Middlebury sealed a berth in the NESCAC Tournament but was bounced by Colby in the quarterfinals.
“We did a lot better last season than we did the year before,” Huffman said. “We moved up from eighth place in the conference to fourth. We made the conference tournament but we lost in the first round. The bright side is we didn’t lose any of our players so we’re very optimistic. If we do what we need do to, we can go far this season.”
The Panthers will rely on their depth to help carry them towards a deep NESCAC Tournament run. Huffman believes Middlebury’s roster has a strong starting five and a talented group of substitutes who can jump in and contribute without missing a beat.
“Numbers are one of our strengths this season,” Huffman said. “We’re a pretty deep team this year, which is something I think we’ll appreciate. Given that we haven’t lost anybody, I think we all know each other really well on the court. We have two freshmen that came in and both are great shooters, so I think adding them to the mix will really help.”
Middlebury’s end goal, among others, is to bring home a NESCAC championship. Luckily for the Panthers, they’ll have 11 non-conference games before opening their NESCAC schedule on January 5 against Connecticut College.
“The ultimate goal is to win the conference championship,” Huffman said. “We have more specific goals like out-rebounding teams and winning the first few minutes of each quarter. We’re looking to start quarters right and set the tone. We’re also looking to work on limiting turnovers and our coaches have really stressed that.
“Opponents can expect a really hungry team,” Huffman added. “We’re ready to play and we won’t sit back. We’re playing some of the top teams in the country but they shouldn’t take us lightly. We have great players and we’re ready to find ways to win games.”
Academically, Huffman, a double-major in political science and American studies, has relied heavily on her time-management skills in balancing basketball with her schoolwork.
“Things are going well academically,” Huffman said. “Sometimes things can be tough with basketball in managing practices and studying. It can be tough but keeping a good sense of time management can really help.”
Middlebury won its first two games of the season in the Emerson Tip-Off Classic. The Panthers visit Johnson State this evening.