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Women's Basketball Players Reflect on What It Means to be a Knox Student-Athlete

The life of a Knox student-athlete is anything but simple. From completing homework and studying to physical conditioning and daily practices, both halves demand a great deal of focus. But things really get wild when you’re entering a national tournament. During finals.

The Knox women’s basketball team recently did just that, winning their first Midwestern Conference Tournament Championship in College history and punching their ticket to the NCAA Tournament the weekend before winter final exams. 

The grind of the season is intense. On average, the women on the basketball team practice for 2-3 hours a day, as well as lifting weights and conditioning twice a week and spending entire practice sessions studying film. 

Knox students at Lombard Middle School

Saxon Alvarez ’23 has followed this schedule for four years and believes it has driven her to improve her time management. She says the lifestyle of a student-athlete at Knox is special, as athletes work hand-in-hand with professors to gain an education while maintaining the physical demands of a sports season that the team has worked towards their whole lives.

Knox students at Lombard Middle School

For Sophia Elstone ’24, Knox's treatment of student-athletes was a draw to come to the College in the first place. When searching for schools, she wasn’t sure if a college experience existed that allowed for an equal amount of time and effort for both an education and an athletic career.

“I think it shows the opportunity that Knox gives students. I didn’t have to choose one or the other,” Elstone said. 

Elstone says the team felt something special building this season. She says preseason training reached an unprecedented level as they worked alongside their coaching staff. As the team continued to have success and eventually made its way to the NCAA tournament, Elstone felt fully supported by the faculty.

“It goes both ways,” she said. “Students and faculty work together to make sure everyone is able to get their work done, but also focus on competing at the highest level.” 

During the length of the season, Elstone says professors in multiple classes spoke with her about upcoming games and interacted with teammates. This showed an honest appreciation for the sport. She says this was not only seen in the classrooms, but also around Galesburg. “You could feel the support from everyone. There was genuine excitement,” she said. 

Knox students at Lombard Middle School

Markesha Jackson ’23 says the connection she made with faculty has been key to her Knox success. As a first-generation college student, she wasn’t sure what to expect as a student-athlete entering her first year. Looking back, the transition was made easier by the Knox community’s constant desire to assist in both athletics and academics. 

“Coaches and professors both work to support me as an athlete and a student,” Jackson said.

As the season progressed, Jackson says she tried to focus on one thing at a time. During bus rides or in a hotel room before a tournament, she was deep in a textbook studying for an upcoming test or bouncing research ideas off of her teammates. When she was on the court, she says everything faded out and basketball became the only thought in her mind. 

“We all have to stay grounded and know what the ultimate goal of being in college is,” she said. “You have to recognize your role on the teams you play for and also balance your personal goals.”

The team ultimately fell to Loras College in the tournament’s opening matchup, concluding their amazing season on March 3. 

As seniors on the team, both Alvarez and Jackson are proud of the team’s accomplishments this season and look forward to seeing how far the team will go next season. As they approach graduation, they can look back on their time as student-athletes at Knox and appreciate the skills they learned and the support around them.

“There’s so much on your plate, and being a student-athlete really prepares you for being in a competitive career,” Alvarez said. “I could also find time to hang out and relax with my teammates. I know they’ll always have my back.”

“We stuck together through it all. I’m proud of that,” Jackson said.

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Printed on Tuesday, May 30, 2023