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Don't overlook point guard Alexis Sams
Sams web 2
Georgia Southern point guard Alexis Sams (23) splits two Furman defenders for a bucket in this Jan. 9 file photo taken at Hanner Fieldhouse. Sams, a 5-foot-5 true freshman, was out of basketball for well over a year due to injury and illness before becoming the GSU starter at point guard. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

SoCon Women's Standings    
Team                  SoCon  All 
   
Chattanooga             12-1 19-3
Davidson                  10-1 13-8
Elon                           9-3 12-9
Appalachian St.          8-3 14-5
Samford                     8-5 11-11
Charleston                  5-7 9-12
Furman                      5-7 9-12
Western Carolina       4-8   6-15
Ga. Southern            3-9 4-17
Wofford                    1-11 6-14
UNC Greensboro      1-11 4-17

Saturday's Games   
    Furman at Western Carolina, 2 p.m.
    Davidson at Appalachian State, 2 p.m.
    UNC Greensboro at Samford, 4 p.m.
    Elon at Chattanooga, 5 p.m.
    Charleston at Georgia Southern, 5 p.m.

    Alexis Sams has pretty much always been the smallest player on the court.
    Standing at 5-foot-5, the true freshman point guard is just about the smallest player in the Southern Conference, and is easily the smallest at Georgia Southern.
    Just don’t try to tell that to her.
    “I always tell people, ‘What are you talking about? I’m not five-five, I’m six-one.’ It’s a mentality,” Sams said. “You can’t think of it as holding you back.”
    She doesn’t think about it at all. In fact, until she was halfway through her high school career at Lake Brantley in Orlando, Fla., she didn’t even know how much taller everybody else was.
    “I never really thought about it until probably my junior year when I saw pictures of me playing with my team,” she said. “It was like, ‘Oh. I didn’t know I was that small.’”
    First-year GSU coach Chris Vozab doesn’t think about it, either.
    “She’s fearless,” Vozab said about Sams. “She looks little, but she’s got a huge heart, and she knows how to play.”
    It’s been a long year for the Eagles (4-17, 3-9 SoCon), and a long year for Sams, too. As if learning a new system wasn’t hard enough, GSU has been bitten by the injury bug all season. While post players have been most affected, Sams spent her entire senior season of high school, and the first five weeks of this season, recovering from illness and a knee injury to her ACL.
    Only recently has Sams become a leader as the team’s starting point guard.
    “I love it so much that I just kept focus, kept focus, didn’t let any of the little things hold me back,” Sams said. “I just kept pushing hard.”
    Vozab knew she saw something special in Sams when they were first introduced during the fall semester, before the season started.
    “The first time I ever saw her play was on the court in individuals in the fall,” Vozab said. “Her skill level, her toughness, how much she loves it, her passion for the game — those things were clear right away.”
    Sams didn’t play a competitive game for well over a year, but recently has been contributing more and more, having started 12 of the team’s 21 games.
    Most recently, Sams led GSU with a career-high 14 points on Monday against Appalachian State, including drilling 4 of 7 3-point attempts.
    Sams and her efficient shooting has helped the team’s leading scorer, junior MiMi DuBose (14.4 points per game), get better looks, making the offense that much more dynamic.
    “I’d say I try to be an energy spark,” Sams said. “I’m getting better at getting other people open. I’ll hit the open shot if I need to.”
    Her shooting has come a long way since she got to GSU. Vozab attributes it to Sams’ ability to take instruction. Sometimes, she’s a little too good at “being coached.”
    “She’s very literal. When you tell her something, you’d better make sure that’s exactly what you want her to do,” laughed Vozab, “because she’s going to do it.”
    Sams said she’s becoming more and more of a leader — something that wouldn’t be possible as a true freshman without the help of veterans like DuBose and senior Meredyth Frye.
    “They let me be a leader,” Sams said, “and that’s not easy to do, especially since I’m a freshman.”

    Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.