Alex Canady doesn’t back down from challenges.
If there’s a loose ball on the floor, she’s diving on top of it. If someone on the other team has a hot hand, she’s hounding them with every ounce of energy she’s got. If there’s a chance for a rebound, it doesn’t matter how much taller the other player is, she’s going for it. She’s going all out, all the time, no questions asked.
“I’m a hustle player,” Canady said. “That’s something I pride myself on. I’m not a fan of people who give up when things get tough. And I’m not afraid to speak up and challenge my teammates when I think they need to be challenged, because I’d want them to do the same for me.”
Canady encountered all sorts of new challenges this year as a freshman at the University of South Carolina Aiken. Finding the balance between basketball, school and life can be hectic. But Alex Canady doesn’t back down from challenges.
“Time management is key,” Canady said. “It’s a big change going from high school to college, but you meet a lot of great people and they help push you to do your best. And you do the same for them. It’s really hard being a student-athlete, but I love it. It’s made me push myself and become a better person.”
Canady played in all 29 games for USC Aiken this year, earning 16 starts. Averaging 4.7 points per game, she found it much tougher to score than she did at Clinton High School, where she finished with 1,188 career points. But Alex Canady doesn’t back down from challenges. She tied for the team lead in assists with 69, and she prides herself on being a good distributor.
“I can shoot the ball, but I usually look to pass before I shoot,” Canady said. “I’d rather get an open layup than a contested three. But my personal goal is to look to score a little more this year rather than always relying on my post player. I want to get to the rim more so that my post players can be open when I need them to be open.”
That’s another balancing act she’s trying to master at the collegiate level: when to shoot and when to pass. It’s something she thought was key to Clinton’s run to the NCHSAA 2A State Championship in 2017 during her junior year.
“My teammates — especially my junior year when we won the state championship — they knew how to pass the ball, and when to pass it and when to shoot it,” Canady said. “That’s something Mikayla [Boykin] helped me with a lot: seeing the game and knowing when to make certain decisions.”
She hoped to show off those decision-making skills her senior year at Clinton. But an unfortunate foot injury held her to just six games in 2017-18. For many, that would’ve been the end of the season.
But Alex Canady doesn’t back down from challenges.
Canady stayed involved with the team, using her court vision to see what problems the team may have and talking to her teammates in huddles to keep them motivated. She refused to let her injury beat her.
Now, Canady finds herself coming back from another serious injury. On May 19, she was involved in a golf carting accident that threw her from the cart. She lost two teeth, had to have two more pulled out, and had a bone grafting surgery for her jaw on Tuesday. She also had a serious knee injury that has set back her fitness considerably, as she hasn’t been able to get in the weight room.
“It’s tough,” Canady said. “I fell in love with the weight room this year, and now I can’t even get in it.”
For many, the physical and psychological trauma from those injuries might have been enough to call it quits on playing college basketball.
But Alex Canady doesn’t back down from challenges.
“It was really hard to cope with at first,” Canady said. “But it doesn’t do any good to dwell on it. It happened, I can’t control it now. But I can control how I respond to it.”
In the months since, she’s been able to get back on the court and do some shooting drills. Her knee isn’t 100%, but she’s trying to work through the scar tissue to get back to fitness.
“There’s a difference between the pain you can’t push through and the pain you have to push through,” Canady said. “I owe it to my teammates to do everything I can to get back on that court. Sometimes it hurts, but you have to push through the pain.”
Those are the operative words: “have to.” Canady doesn’t just want to get back on the court; she has to. That’s the competitive fire that’s always burned in her, even since her softball playing days as a member of Dunn’s 2012 Dixie Youth 12-and-under State Championship team. And even after the accident, that fire still burns bright.
Canady is hopeful that she can get back on the court next season and help the Pacers improve on a winning season.
“This year we’re wanting to make it further into the playoffs,” Canady said. “But one of our main goals as a team is to stay positive. That’s easy when you’re winning games. But if we lose a game, we don’t want to hang our heads or argue; we want to see what we can do to get better.”
That’s certainly a message fitting for Canady. She’s faced adversity in many different ways, and she doesn’t expect it to ever stop. But when it comes, you can bet on one thing: Alex Canady won’t back down from the challenge.