Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

January 9, 2014

Lubsey hot on the court for Rams

BLUEFIELD, Va. — It would be hard to find anyone who likes temperatures hovering around zero or below.

Alex Lubsey might be on top of that list.

“I just can’t get used to it,” said Lubsey, who has contributed 13.8 points and 6.2 rebounds per game this season for the Bluefield College men’s basketball team. “I grew up in Jamaica all my life so there is no getting used to it now.”

A 6-foot-7 senior on the court and junior in the classroom, Lubsey is a transfer from Eastern Illinois, who has provided a spark for the Rams (7-3), including a pair of highlight reel dunks near the end of last Thursday’s 80-77 loss to then-No. 3 Pikeville.

“I was trying to entertain the crowd and motivate my teammates and get them going and get the bench going,” said Lubsey, whose Rams will host Mid-South Conference foes Cumberland tonight and Lindsey Wilson on Saturday. “I know momentum is a big factor in a game so I know those dunks were definitely some momentum changers.  

“It got the team going. Unfortunately we lost, but it was a pretty good game.”

 Real good. Bluefield fell just three points short against the Bears, who have since moved up to No. 1 among NAIA schools in America, which provided a definite confidence booster for the Rams.

“We thought we could have beat them,” Lubsey said. “It didn’t turn out in our favor, but next time we will definitely be ready for them.”

Lubsey spent the last two years at Eastern Illinois, a Division I school that plays in the Ohio Valley Conference. His playing time was limited, largely because his leaping skills weren’t as effective against taller players.

“It was pretty much because I was an undersized big, but I needed to work on my skills also,” Lubsey said “It was a good experience. The practice sessions, I had real good days some days and some days I was outmatched being an undersized big.

“I learned a lot from what I saw there and brought it over here and it has gone well so far.”

Very well. Head coach Richard Morgan has been pleasantly surprised by Lubsey, who arrived in Bluefield sight unseen, learning about the school through an acquaintance who had brought Shane Williams to the Rams a few years ago.

“What a great kid, and a better guy than he is basketball player, just a great guy,” Morgan said. “Everybody on campus likes him, he does what he is supposed to, he goes to class, he is right up there, a 3.2 GPA.

“He is a great kid to have and I am glad to have him and we needed a guy like that, a senior that you don’t have to worry about, that you just know he is going to do what he is supposed to do.”

Lubsey was equally surprised to be playing for a coaching staff that includes All-American collegians like Morgan and  assistant Keith ‘Mister’ Jennings, both of whom played professionally, either in the NBA or overseas.

“I just came over here and saw it as a good opportunity for me to finally get to play with this being my senior year in basketball,” Lubsey said. “I was just excited to get out on the court and show my stuff.”

Basketball has taken Lubsey far. He was actually a swimmer growing up in Kingston, Jamaica, taking up basketball at the urging of a friend. He wound up participating in hoops and swimming at Ardenne High School.

“I was pretty athletic as far as I can say,” Lubsey said. “When I was playing I knew I was much more athletic than everybody else I was playing with. I got a shot at a basketball camp down there and I got a shot to come overseas and play.”

While his mother remarried and relocated five years ago to Las Vegas where his sister attends UNLV, Lubsey went in a different direction.

“They are doing pretty good over there,” Lubsey said. “I am sure they miss me, but I am used to being out on the road by myself.”

He landed for a year at a private school in Richmond, Va., and moved on to a prep school in Charlotte, N.C. That was followed by two years at Tyler Junior College in Texas, and then wound up at Eastern Illinois. Two years there and it was time to move again, this time to Bluefield.

“I have enjoyed everywhere that basketball has taken me,” Lubsey said. “I have enjoyed it, I love traveling, not many people can say they have been traveling all over the country like this and hopefully I can take my traveling to overseas.”

While Lubsey is working toward a degree in Business Administration, his ultimate dream is to play professionally, much like fellow Bluefield alumni Omar Reed and Borgia M’Bala are doing now overseas.

Morgan is confident that dream will become reality.

“Absolutely, because everybody wants a high flyer,” Morgan said. “I think that is something that can really help him, just being here and Coach Jennings taking him through all the workouts, I think that is really going to help his game to go to another level.”

He’s happy to be in Bluefield for now where his size and leaping ability have made him a force at the NAIA level, connecting on 65.5 percent (55-84) of his shot attempts and 73.7 (28-38) from the free throw line. He has also contributed his share of steals, blocked shots, rebounds and assists.

“The only big difference I see between here and Division 1 is just on the size of players,” Lubsey said. “Me being undersized there, I am not that undersized here, it works out in my benefit.

“I get to show off a lot more of my talents and show off more of my skills. It has been pretty good so far, I am not having any problems with the bigs so I just hope we can keep winning to be honest.”

Lubsey, who is seeking a degree in Business Administration, has proven to be more than just a leaper for the Rams, who are 7-3 against a difficult schedule this season.

“It has been great to have him, I wish I had him for two years and then it might have made it a little different for him and for us,” Morgan said. “He is such an exciting player to watch and I think our players are waiting for him to have the big dunk or the big block and get us going.

“That is what I told him. That is what you do for us, you energize us, you get us going and I think that is what your role is so do it. I think he does a good job of doing his role.”

Bluefield is in its second season in the Mid-South, a league that has provided two of the last three NAIA national champions. With the Rams now in the midst of at least two MSC games each night, Lubsey and friends are focused on the task ahead.

“I guess you could say pleased, but not satisfied,” Lubsey said. “I think we could have won a lot more games than we did so hopefully we can keep our wins up and reduce our losses.

“We prepared for this at the beginning of the season knowing it was going to be pretty hard, it wasn’t going to be easy at all. All we have got to do it is keep working hard, come out in practice, go as hard as we can and it should show up in the games.”                       

It has for Lubsey, who even impressed Morgan with his electrifying dunks against Pikeville.                    

 “That was unbelievable, that guy can just fly, man, but he is not only that, he can really play basketball,” Morgan said. “Some guys, they can just jump and that is it, but he finishes around the basket, he shoots the little jump shot.

“I think he has got everything he needs. I think he just needs to stay focused on what he has got going on and let’s finish up strong and let’s get him where we need to get him after this season is over.”

There is also his work toward a degree, which is of utmost importance to his family.

“It is a very important, my mom and my father, they have gotten their degrees,” Lubsey said. “It is like I am supposed to get mine regardless so I am definitely going to get it.”

As for dealing with the cold of Bluefield, Lubsey is doing the best that a Jamaican — or anyone else — can do.

“I am not used to this at all, I am in my house right now freezing,” said Lubsey, with a smile. “I got a heater the other day so that has done me pretty well. As far as the cold, I have been used to it somewhat because I have been in Richmond and Charlotte and Illinois, it got real cold there too.”

—Contact Brian Woodson

 at bwoodson@bdtonline.com

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