Nov. 4, 2010
MADISON, Wis. -- After extolling the virtues of an aggressive out-of-season conditioning program, UW women's basketball coach Lisa Stone was asked specifically about the development of senior captain Alyssa Karel and what she was going to bring to the table this year as one of the team leaders.
"Muscles," Stone said. "She has muscles."
Before Tuesday's practice, Stone fielded the inevitable follow-up question?
Did you really say muscles, she has muscles?
"It's interesting because Alyssa has a very small frame," Stone said of her 5-foot-7, 140-pound guard. "And this summer, she put on muscle. She has always been working out, but it's apparent that she's now in the best physical shape that she's ever been in. She looks great, she looks strong."
Strong enough to carry the team? That's not what Stone was suggesting about Karel. But she did reveal that "she's going to shoulder some point guard responsibilities for us, and I'm excited."
Karel laughed when relayed Stone's quote about her muscles.
"I went back home this summer," said Karel, a native of St. Paul, Minn., "and my mom said, `You look pretty strong.' And I kind of joked, `Yeah, I finally hit puberty.'"
But, seriously, the plan was to get stronger, she confirmed.
"At the end of last season," Karel said, "every one of my coaches said, `You've got to work on your strength this summer, you've got to work on your strength.' I definitely made a conscientious effort (in the weight room). And it's paying off. I do feel stronger. I don't tire as easily."
So what does she think about getting some playing time at point guard? "I was a little nervous at first," Karel admitted. "But I kept telling myself, `Alyssa, that's what you did your whole life.'"
The irony was not lost on Karel, who was named to the preseason All-Big Ten team.
"If you asked me when I came here my freshman year where I thought I would be right now, it would be completely different," she said. "I came in thinking that I was going to be a point guard. But we obviously had a phenomenal point guard in Rae Lin D'Alie and I adapted and moved to the 2."
That would be the shooting guard where Karel has excelled by accounting for 1,049 career points (a 10.9 average).
"It's funny because I was never much of a shooter in high school," said Karel, who starred at Cretin-Derham Hall, a school known for its baseball alums, Joe Mauer and Paul Molitor.
How much scoring will the Badgers need from Karel this season?
"Hopefully not the bulk of it," Stone said. "Offensively, she's increased her range. She obviously has a great pull-up jumper. She has a spin move to score. And she's added a three-point shot that has become more consistent. Alyssa is likely going to have to put up double-digits on the perimeter but she's going to get some help inside from our senior bookends, Tara Steinbauer and Lin Zastrow."
Karel sees a scoring threat at every position on the floor.
"I know the scoring is not just going to fall on me," she said.
But does she feel pressure to score?
"I put pressure on myself to be better than I was last season."
That's the same pressure that the team is feeling, she agreed.
How does she match or exceed last season's production?
"The way I look at it," Karel said, "I have to be just as aggressive if not more aggressive."
Minutes earlier, Stone had said this about Karel, "She's sweet, she's innocent."
That comes out, too, when Alyssa Karel is talking about the serious commitment that she has already made to helping others through a career in nursing. She's mature beyond her years.
Two summers ago, she spent two weeks in South Africa where she visited hospitals, clinics, nursing schools and an orphanage as a means to learn more about their health care system.
This summer, she's hoping to go to Tanzania as part of an accredited study program.
As a senior in high school, she went to El Salvador, a social justice trip.
At a very young age, she's working towards a global perspective on her vocation.
"She's an amazing human being," Stone said. "Her highs don't get too high. Her lows don't get too low. She's a tremendously gifted student. She's worldly-traveled and very well-rounded."
Karel's career goal is to become a nurse practitioner and start her own clinic in Africa or South America. Her immediate team goal? "By getting to the NCAA tournament last year, it goes without saying that's our expectation," she said. "And even take it a step farther ... Big Ten champs."