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High School Student Athlete Spotlight: Alexandra Buckley (NTHS)

There is no doubt about. Alexandra Buckley has found a home and a new basketball family.

Buckley, a senior point guard, has been a big part of why the North Tonawanda Lady Jacks basketball team is having its best season in quite some time.

As of Tuesday, the Lady Jacks owned a 7-1 record, good enough for second place in the Niagara Frontier League. And currently hold down the No.10 spot in the WNY Large School rankings. “It just feels amazing to be part of all of the success that we’re having,” Buckley said. “It’s great to even lead that a little bit. Have the girls be the best they can around me. I just like to push everyone around me to be better at all times.”

Already a talented roster brimming with potential, Buckley’s has proven to be the X-factor that has helped pull all of the pieces together. “Her basketball I.Q. is off the charts,” head coach Erin Strassburg said. “She understands the game at a different level. She understands the game inside and out. She definitely has helped the intensity level in practice. We have a very competitive team as it is and she just came in a kicked it up a notch.”

Buckley arrived at NT this year after spending the last three years at Cardinal O’Hara where she played basketball.

Though Alex is a resident of the Lumber City, the shift to NTHS wasn’t as natural as one might think. For starters, she didn’t know one person on the basketball team. That made for a bit of an awkward start for the somewhat shy Buckley. “First off it was exciting to get back in the gym. To play in this beautiful gym. It’s huge, it’s so beautiful,” Buckley said. “I remember right before I came into the gym, seeing all the girls there, i definitely got a little nervous. Because it hit me, this is a bunch of new people. I’m not with my normal little family at O’Hara. I definitely got a little nervous. We walked into the gym, I suited up. I mean, the nerves were definitely there for a couple of days until I started to feel like it’s just (about) basketball.” Buckley said there really wasn’t a magical, watershed moment where she felt like she instantly fitted in. She said over time as she got to know the girls and they got to know her the friendships just grew organically. And they were all bound together by the desire to want to win being a championship to banner to the Alumni-Student Activity Center.

NTHS proved to be an attractive option for not only basketball, but the district’s hybrid format also afforded Buckley the availability to maintain a job. Not having any friends prior to walking into the gym put Buckley in a difficult position. As a point guard, she knows she has to be assertive in the floor and be able to take charge to run plays. But at the same time, Buckley knew that if she came in barking order before earning their respect they might look at her in a negative light and think, “who is she to give orders?” Buckley gradually won the respect of her teammates through the combination of her skill, work ethic and sense of compete. “At first I was kind of quiet. I didn’t talk to anybody. I was in the corner,” Buckley softly said. “But as soon as we got on the court I think my voice just kind of comes out cause I’m just a natural basketball player.” Buckley said that once she steps on the court she assumes that role of being a leader that comes with being point guard. She confidently directs traffic and keeps the offense humming. Watching Buckley take charge is even more impressive when you realize that she’s an introvert by nature. Off the court, she’s about as quiet and unassuming as you can get. “Oh yeah for sure. If you catch me in the hallways I’ll be there with my airpods I’m looking down not talking to anybody,” Buckley said with a smile. “Soon as I get on the court my mouth doesn’t shut. I’m like let’s do this! Really ref!? Come on guys let’s pick It up!” Strassburg said she was not only impressed by the way Buckley won her teammates over, but also by the way the girls welcomed her in. Strassburg said the girls, especially the other guards, could have shunned Buckley and viewed her as an outsider who is taking their playing time. Instead, they gave Alex a fair chance and soon saw her as a valuable asset who could make them even better. It’s a part of the team first attitude displayed by every girl this year. “I think a couple of the players who are guards kinda got their backs up a little bit. But once they saw it’s not taking away from them at all. It’s only helping us as a team as a whole. That’s kind of been the mentality and they saw the impact that she’s had. It’s just helping build our success,” Strassburg said. “I think a big part is everybody knowing their role in the team and where they fit in and how everybody contributes in their own way.”

Buckley has certainly carried her share in the scorebooks as her 16.8 points per game lead the team. She also has the most points and assists, and is fourth in steals.

Though Buckley is thankful for the opportunity to shine as a Lady Jack she will never forget her days as a Lady Hawk. Buckley said from the instructions of head coach Nick O’Neill to practicing against superstars like Aaliyah Parker, her time at O’Hara played a huge role in shaping her into the player that she is now. “With all of the knowledgeable coaches over there I definitely learned a lot of what I know from them,” Buckley said. “Almost every day guarding people like Aaliyah. You get a lot of defensive practice out of (guarding) her. Thanks for sure! ”

Change is never easy at any age. Buckley’s move from O’Hara to North Tonawanda High School was not a decision she entered into lightly. She did a lot of soul searching as she weighed the pros and cons of a transfer. “This is definitely out of my comfort zone,” she said. “I thought about this decision a lot especially during quarantine. I was like I don’t know if I can do this. I was asking everybody, all my close family what do I do? All along, my mom said the decision was up to me. I thought I feel like I could do something here. Make a change. Hopefully get a banner up in here. So far I’ve been succeeding and I’m excited to take it all the way through.” Ultimately, Alex Buckley took a leap of faith that NTHS was where she belonged. And she could not be any happier as she faces the world with more confidence than ever before. “I remember I was terrified even going to class because I didn’t know anybody and I just couldn’t talk to anyone,” Buckley said. “But yeah I feel like I’m definitely more confident in the things that I do and decisions that I make right now. Things that I know I can do for myself, even if I’m a little scared I can still figure it out and do it.”

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