Sports

Central Kitsap's Wesley good enough for full-ride scholarship to Memphis

Central Kitsap High School senior Alexis Wesley will attend the University of Memphis on a full-ride volleyball scholarship. - Mike Baldwin/staff photo
Central Kitsap High School senior Alexis Wesley will attend the University of Memphis on a full-ride volleyball scholarship.
— image credit: Mike Baldwin/staff photo

Alexis Wesley never thought she was good enough.

The Central Kitsap High School senior was a three-year starter for the Cougars volleyball team, but the prospect of playing for a Division I program wasn’t on her radar. She often watched taller women play at the college level on television, admiring their physicality and finesse on the court.

“I watched games and I thought I couldn’t play with these guys,” she said Tuesday. “They’re so big, and they’re up there so high on the net.”

Little did Wesley know she would eventually join them.

The Cougars standout verbally committed March 10 to play for the University of Memphis volleyball program next fall. Wesley earned a full-ride scholarship and will sign a letter of intent on National Signing Day, set for April 13.

But the aspirations of competing for a college team, let alone a Division I program, were not on her mind for one simple reason.

“Nobody ever told me I was good enough,” she said.

Wesley’s mindset changed when family friend Tyrell Baker, whose daughter currently plays volleyball for Concordia University in Portland, encouraged her to submit tapes to various schools across the country and wait to see who responds. Having never attended a college volleyball game, Wesley suddenly braced herself for the next stage in her life when emails poured in.

“I was in a whirlwind,” she said. “Once we started getting messages, I thought it was really happening for me.”

The Tigers came knocking. Wesley met with Memphis head coach April Jauregui last month, her lone campus visit, and the program was impressed enough with the 6-foot-1 Silverdale native that they made her dream come true. When the news hit the Wesley family, a celebration was in order.

“We were giddy like little school girls,” said Wesley, who will play middle blocker for Memphis. “It was a pipe dream for a while, so when it really happened, it meant having my college paid for, and my mom doesn’t have to worry about anything.”

Wesley played for the Bainbridge Island and Puget Sound Volleyball clubs, but her time in the private circuit lasted only two years because it was too expensive. She’s currently playing select volleyball for a Puyallup league through July.

The two years at the club level are a fraction of what most collegiate volleyball players spend, said Wesley’s high school coach, Central Kitsap’s Gordy Bushaw. He added Monday that Wesley’s lack of private volleyball experience is a minor issue, but that her work on the court will speak for itself.

“She hasn’t played much club ball, but she obviously has the skills and physical ability to perform well,” Bushaw said. “I think she can be a very good blocker on that team and in the conference, and she’s very determined.”

Wesley leaves for Memphis in July for the program’s summer camp. Jauregui told Wesley that she’s unsure whether the Central Kitsap athlete will redshirt or compete in her freshman season. A decision will be made at the camp.

For now, Wesley is going to spend the last few months in Silverdale with friends and family. She said that she’s going to miss her home, but leaving the state for college is beneficial because she wants to be independent.

“Now that I have this chance, I want to be at a place where I can take care of myself and be comfortable with being alone and knowing I can do it,” she added.

Wesley wants to major in education so she can be a teacher and coach at the high school level. Her mother, Dawn Wesley, said Tuesday that she’s going to miss seeing her daughter on a regular basis. However, Dawn Wesley has accepted a position with Alaska Airlines that starts in August. She said that her new job, based in Alaska, will give her the chance to fly out to Memphis whenever she wants to see Alexis Wesley compete.

“I’m so thrilled for her to get out to Memphis and achieve her goals,” said Dawn Wesley. “She’s made great decisions and worked so hard to get to this point.”

Alexis Wesley started the school year glued to the television watching college volleyball, and will end her short summer break packing her bags to take her chance to make a name for herself. Despite earning a full-ride ticket to Memphis, she admits that still, her fear and admiration for college volleyball remains the same.

“I’m scared out of my mind,” Alexis Wesley said. “I’m freaking out. I think I’ll be able to hang with them. I know there’s going to be some that are better than me, but it’s going to be great.”

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