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K-W’s Lesakowski finds true passion in basketball

Alyssa Lesakowski has dedicated herself to the sport of basketball and it has shown in the sophomore's play.
Alyssa Lesakowski has put the pieces together and there is no telling just how good she can be.

On Jan.11, Lesakowski, a Kenmore West sophomore, had the breakout game she’d been working for as her 13 points and eight rebounds helped the Blue Devils beat Kenmore East, 55-26.

“I just felt more comfortable with my team,” Lesakowski said. “So I felt like a lot (of pressure) was off my back.”

Lesakowski followed that game against Ken-East with another strong showing as she scored 10 points and had six boards in a 52-44 win over Niagara-Wheatfield four days later.

“When you watch her everyday she’s gaining confidence,” Ken-West coach Mike Licata said. “And every time she gains confidence, she’s able to add something new to her game.”

But for the 5-foot-10 Lesakowski the seeds of success for those two games were actually planted just over two years ago.

While basketball is without question Lesakowski’s passion, at an early age she was initially drawn more to her other love — dancing.

Lesakowski took up dance at the age of 3 when she joined the David DeMaria Dance Studio and stuck with it religiously through seventh grade.

She even took part in dance competitions with high school aged kids during her seventh grade year.

But when eighth grade came around, she felt the pull of the hardwood and her one true love calling her.

She comes from an athletic family — Alyssa’s dad, Mike, played competitive hockey and her mom, Amy played four years of varsity basketball at Nardin before playing in college.

While Alyssa’s younger siblings, Liam and Julia, followed their dad to the rink, Alyssa became a gym rat, just like her mom.

“She definitely does (inspire me),” Alyssa said of her mother. “We always used to go in our backyard, and before dance, we’d play outside. I like basketball way more than I like dance and she helped me realize that.”

But while her mom certainly inspired her, Alyssa is without question her own person and making her own name in the sport.

Ironically enough, Lesakowski’s dance experience has paid off on the court. It’s not only in her conditioning, but the graceful way she floats through the air as she’s going for a lay up or her the way she steps when driving to the hoop.

After spending eighth grade on JV, Lesakowski took her next big step as a freshman when she was the last girl to make the cut on varsity. Playing with a senior-heavy team, Lesakowski knew she was in the perfect situation. She could practice and learn from the older girls and get her minutes without having the pressure of any expectations. It was all about learning.

“I loved that I moved up last year because I got to see how a real good team plays,” Lesakowski said. “They were like role models to me, so when I stepped up I just wanted to feel like how they did last year.”

But the landscape is different in 2012-13. After losing eight seniors and welcoming in seven newcomers, Lesakowski is now in the position of being a leader herself.

Licata said that was part of the thinking behind keeping her as a freshman. The Ken-West coaching staff knew Lesakowski had the stuff great players and great leaders are made of.

“Because of the nature of the season, we put her in a position where she has a tremendous amount of pressure on her to be a leader, to lead by the way she plays,” Licata said. “And I think she’s doing it beautifully.”

Interestingly enough, the strong outing against Wheatfield was just as vital for Lesakowski confidence as it marked her first truly complete game on her home court this season.

Lesakowski admitted that early on the desire of wanting to play well at home played on her nerves a bit. But now, having put together solid outings at home, she’s able to relax and play more naturally regardless of what court she’s on.

Sharpening her game last spring with her AAU team NY Revolution, Lesakowski is more fundamentally sound than ever before. She’s got a solid shot, improved defense, speed, size, good ball-handling skills and the ability dribble with both hands

Lesakowski has all the tools. It’s just a matter of learning how to bring them all together. And she’s doing just that.

“It feels really good because I’ve been working so hard. Especially in the offseason,” Lesakowski said. “It just feels good that it’s finally coming out and showing in the game.”

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