Special player, special treatment

Alex Louin, passing over a St. Basil defender, is averaging 17.2 points for Mount St. Joseph.       STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer
Alex Louin, passing over a St. Basil defender, is averaging 17.2 points for Mount St. Joseph.       STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer
Posted: February 23, 2014

Fittingly for a player who does a lot on the basketball court and makes it look easy - from running the point to jumping center, from blocking shots to making touch passes in midair, from hitting three-pointers to driving to the hoop - Alex Louin gets the star treatment at Mount St. Joseph.

Some of her friends, numbering five to two or three dozen, support her during games. They sometimes have their faces painted, with "Alex" scrawled on their foreheads. They shout her name. They chant her Twitter handle, "How u Louin?" They even hold up sticks with portraits of her face on them, like the ones you see at college games.

"It's fun to play in front of them, because they might not know a lot about the game, but they're always supporting me and behind me," Louin said.

Drawing supporters at games is one thing. But this is quite another:

Four families from Mount St. Joseph, about a dozen people in all, traveled 650 miles to South Bend, Ind., for Louin's unofficial visit to Notre Dame in the fall of 2012.

Louin and her parents drove there. Mount coach John Miller and his wife did, too.

"It was like a nice kind of thing," recalled Miller, adding it's "kind of rare" for him to accompany a player on a college visit. "A large part of our Mount St. Joseph family, so to speak, traveled out there."

Granted, the chance to attend a Notre Dame football game was part of the lure, and Miller, the former La Salle University women's coach, is good friends with Irish coach Muffet McGraw.

But the Notre Dame-bound caravan shows how much Louin means to Mount St. Joseph.

A senior who has signed with Villanova, Louin just might be the best girls' player in Southeastern Pennsylvania.

Unflappable on the court, she is averaging 17.2 points, 7 rebounds, 2.3 steals, and 2.2 assists for the Mount, the top seed in the District 1 Class AAAA playoffs. The Magic will host Bishop Shanahan on Saturday in the quarterfinals.

Louin is shooting 41 percent (40 for 98) on three-pointers and 81 percent (101 for 125) from the foul line.

"I've often said that not only is she extremely talented - she's the most talented player I've had in these past eight years at the Mount - but she is just unbelievably dedicated," Miller said.

"It's very obvious how much she just absolutely loves the game of basketball. . . . She puts in so much extra time into honing her skills that she's obviously just a real treat to coach."

The 6-foot, ponytailed guard from Doylestown is indeed a student of the game, watching the sport on TV with an eye toward improving.

Louin, 18, grew up watching 76ers guard Allen Iverson and worked to incorporate his crossover dribble into her game. Lately, she has been trying to master the footwork of a hesitation pull-up jumper by Duke freshman Jabari Parker.

She also admires the shooting strokes of the WNBA's Elena Delle Donne and Penn State's Maggie Lucas, and Delle Donne's all-around play.

"Elena is a 6-5 player, and I'm kind of a taller guard," Louin said. "I've learned from her that you can't just be one-dimensional. You have to be versatile. You have to be able to dribble and shoot and play defense and get blocked shots.

"Someone with her height, she could easily just be a back-to-the-basket, post-up player, but she chose to keep working on all the aspects of her game. I learned that from her."

Louin excelled right away at basketball. She joined a league when she was around 6 and caused such a stir that opposing players' parents complained, trying to get her to quit. She went on to play CYO ball, for her grade school (Gwynedd Mercy Academy), and for the Philadelphia Belles AAU team.

The summer after fifth grade, Louin attended a camp at the University of Connecticut run by Huskies coach Geno Auriemma and his staff.

Despite Louin's age, she was placed with the high school girls, recalled her mother, Regina. At the end of the camp, the coaches selected about 10 MVPs from among the thousand or so participants.

"Alex, not only was she competing in the high school games and scrimmages," Regina Louin said, "but she got one of those MVPs. That's probably when we knew she had something special."

Alex Louin considers point guard her best position. That's where Miller prefers to play her, to keep the ball in her hands.

But Miller thinks she can play multiple positions for coach Harry Perretta at Villanova. The Wildcats were the first to offer Louin a basketball scholarship, back when she was a freshman. She estimates that she made 15 to 20 unofficial visits to colleges - the farthest being Notre Dame, which did not offer a scholarship, she said - but only one official visit, to Villanova.

"I assured Harry that she can play the one, two and the three positions in college, which is very rare," Miller said. "Normally when you go to college, especially a Division I program and especially a program as successful as Villanova's, you find your own niche where you play a certain position."

Wherever she winds up on the floor, Louin wants to be an impact player as a freshman at Villanova, where she plans to major in business.

Louin is an excellent student, too, earning an award each semester from Mount St. Joseph for having a grade-point average exceeding 4.0. That means she has taken honors courses since she started at the school as a freshman. As a senior, she is taking two advanced- placement classes, psychology and English literature.

Basketball, though, remains her passion.

"I want to be a college coach when I'm done playing," Louin said. "I just couldn't imagine doing anything else.

"I really couldn't."


rabitol@phillynews.com

215-854-2916

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