Top Gopher recruit has Coach Whalen excited

Photo by Dr. Mitchell Palmer McDonald Alanna Rose Micheaux

There are approximately 100 African American and other student-athletes of color this school year at the University of Minnesota. In an occasional series throughout the 2021-22 school and sports year, the MSR will highlight many of these players. This week: Gopher freshman basketball player Alanna Micheaux.

Before this season, after a practice, Minnesota WBB Coach Lindsay Whalen asked this observing reporter my first impression of freshman forward Alanna Rose Micheaux. You could see her 6’-2” physicalness, and Whalen, high on her overall toughness, then predicted that Micheaux will before long see plenty of court time.

Micheaux made her collegiate debut at Arizona State Nov. 12, grabbing two rebounds in almost four minutes in the Gophers’ second game of the season. Since then, she is averaging just under 14 minutes a contest.

“I couldn’t have done it without the team,” declared Micheaux after her breakout 23-point, seven-boards in a 25-minute performance Dec. 1 at home against North Carolina. She missed only two shots in 10 tries and later earned Big Ten Freshman of the Week, the first for the Gophers since Jasmine Powell in 2019-20, who won the award twice that season.

Sadly, some local reporters after her breakout game virtually put Micheaux among the Gopher greats, something both she, Whalen, and this reporter quickly dismissed as hyperbole.  

“She’s had some really good games,” noted Whalen last week after a practice. Now in Big Ten play, the Wayne, Mich. forward will be challenged going up against the conference’s best frontcourt players. “It’s going to be a big-time challenge,” said the coach, “so it’ll be good for her.”

“I feel like with more practice and the more time I put into my craft, I can bring more to the team,” said Micheaux.

Assistant Coach Shimmy Gray-Miller works with the team bigs. She told me that Micheaux works hard and is picking up the college game at a steady pace.

“We see her work after practice [and] before practice,” marveled graduate student Deja Winters of her teammate. “She’s been putting in work.”

Micheaux arrived in Gopherland no slouch—she was a four-star recruit rated among the top 100 high school players in the country and ninth-best power forward by one rating group. She averaged 23 points and 12 rebounds, made all-state and all-region and led her school to district and regional titles in three seasons. She was a Michigan Miss Basketball finalist.

But college ball and the Big Ten is no cakewalk, and Micheaux knows that her previous accolades mean nothing these days. “She’s helped me a lot,” said Micheaux of Gray-Miller’s tutelage. “Back in high school, I didn’t have a pump fake.  I now have an up-and-under [move].”

Whalen loves Micheaux’s soft hands. “I think she has some of the best touch I’ve ever seen,” said the coach. “[Her] timing, physicality, touch around the basket—she has a really bright future.”

The coach reminded me last week that since the season is still relatively young, Micheaux needs “that second wind…to get used to the pace” of the college game. “I’m excited for her,” she said.

Micheaux said she ultimately wants to work with kids after college: “I want to help kids accomplish the goals and dreams they have for themselves.” But until then, her focus is on books and hoops.

“I’ve seen a lot of growth in me, to be honest.”