Alexandria’s Alayna Strand has bought into the importance of playing defense during her time in the Cardinal girls basketball program, so it was rewarding for her to hear her future college coach tell her that’s the part of her game that stood out to him.
Strand recently made a verbal commitment to play at the University of Jamestown at the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) level starting next season. The Jimmies first started recruiting the long and athletic wing for Alexandria this past summer after watching her play in a tournament in Fargo.
Strand scored 109 points as a junior last year in helping Alexandria to the state tournament, but defensively is where she made the biggest impact on the court. She was named the Cardinals’ co-defensive player of the year after last season with Myah Kremer.
“He said my defense is really what stood out to him, and he thought that would fit on their team really well,” Strand said of Jamestown head coach Thad Sankey during the recruiting process. “I think that’s a big reason why I fell in love with the coaches. We preach defense here in Alex. I’ve been preached that since I was in eighth-grade, freshman year. To hear a college that wants me preaches defense, it makes me feel like I would fit in.”
Strand does a little bit of everything on the court. She was second on the team last year in assists (64), offensive rebounds (49), defensive rebounds (99), total rebounds (148) and blocked shots (18).
Strand’s first college tour came at Jamestown, and the Jimmies left a great first impression.
“I toured a couple other colleges, but right when I walked onto the campus, I fell in love,” she said. “I love how small it is, and it just felt like home right away.”
The environment of the student body with a lot of athletes on campus, the feel of the gym and the way the Jamestown coaches work with their players all stood out. Strand took in a game this past November with her mother, and the fast style of play the Jimmies showed that night made her feel all the more comfortable with them being the right fit.
“They told me they envision me as that wing player,” Strand said. “They know that my strong suit is not shooting three-pointers. They know it’s driving into the lane, so they envision me doing a lot of driving, and they told me we’re going to work on my shot when I’m there to develop into a three-point shooter and be a stronger wing.”
Strand said she expects to sign her letter of intent with Jamestown later this winter. She is the third senior from this year’s Alexandria girls team who will play at the college level. Senior guards Jaya Hatlestad (University of Wisconsin-River Falls) and Mataya Hoelscher (Concordia Moorhead) signed to play at the Division III level in November.
Jamestown is 6-3 through a Dec. 15 win over Briar Cliff University, and Strand is excited to get on campus for the Jimmies. First, she is hoping for one more memorable run with her Alexandria teammates if the season can get going after being delayed due to the pandemic.
“I am praying for a season. I truly do think this is our year,” Strand said. “Our group of seniors has been so tight since like fifth grade. We’ve been waiting for our senior year for so long, and it’s really sad for us that it’s starting out this way. If we get the opportunity, we’re ready. We’re going to be fast and my outlook is to focus on this year. Focus on my teammates right now and then turn it over to college once the season is over.”