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Alex Louin '14 takes basketball career global

Alex Louin '14 takes basketball career global

The following article by Andrew Robinson appeared in The Times Herald. Read the full article here >>

Alex Louin still marvels at how far an orange ball has taken her.

An all-state performer at Mount Saint Joseph Academy and an All Big-East standout at Villanova, Louin’s basketball career continued in a prolific manner overseas. Although her third year playing professionally has been put on hold, Louin was in the midst of another highly productive season she’s eager to get back to.

Basketball has taken Louin a long way and has left as much of an impact on her as she’s left on the teams she’s played for.

“The way I handle thing now, even compared to my first season in Luxembourg, is vastly different,” Louin said. “It’s almost like they throw you in the water and you have to learn to swim. The overseas life is not for everyone, there’s a ton of players who go over for one season and they’re done.

“There’s a reason for that, it’s dark, it’s lonely, it can be depressing, it’s a lot of things but if you can push through that, it’s also rewarding.”

This is Louin’s third overseas campaign and her second with Grengewald Hostert, a sporting club in the tiny country of Luxembourg, nestled between Germany, France and Belgium. She spent her first pro season with the club, helping it win a Total League title before spending last season with ToPo Helsinki in Finland where she led the Koriisliga league in scoring.

Louin returned to Luxembourg this season, but the Total League went on hiatus due to COVID-19 in late October althought Grengewald Hostert did get to compete in a EuroCup qualifying game on December 17. Currently back stateside in her hometown of Doylestown, Louin is holding out hope the league will resume and her team can pursue another league title.

“My teammates have made it easy to make the adjustment,” Louin said. “There’s never been a time where I felt that I was invested and they weren’t. There’s a mutual respect that we’re all going to come together and improve as a team. Having won a championship two seasons ago, it makes it easier to work toward that goal again.”

Playing overseas isn’t an overtly glamorous or easy lifestyle for most who do it but at least from a basketball perspective, Louin had the right lineage to succeed.

Coming from the highly successful Philadelphia Belles program, Louin’s high school and college coaches also imprinted plenty of lessons she still uses. At the Mount, Louin played under coach John Miller where she surpassed 1,000 points, made All-AACA three times, twice earned league MVP honors, served as a three-year captain, won a District 1 title and earned all-state honors.

“He taught me so much about basketball, he’s such a fundamentally sound coach,” Louin said. “I learned plenty about game management and when you have a lead, how to maintain it and not force anything on the floor.”

Moving on to Villanova, Louin became a key cog under coach Harry Perretta. The 6-foot guard made Big East All-Rookie as a freshman, Honorable Mention All-Big East the next two seasons and second team All-Big East as senior, where she led the Wildcats in scoring and finished with 1,432 career points.

One of five 1,000 point scorers on the roster her senior year, Louin thrived in Perretta’s offense and has carried the read-and-react teachings overseas, where she averaged more than 20 points in her two full professional seasons.

“He’s a basketball genius, he has a great reputation but you don’t understand the level of it until you play under him,” Louin said. “He taught me so much in regards to the different cuts and the reads you have to make, reading the defense and creating easier shots off of that. The plays and some of the reads he taught me, I still use them.”

Louin’s senior year in college gave root to the idea of playing professionally when the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun extended an invitation to the league’s draft combine. While the guard didn’t get drafted, she was able to hold her own with the other prospects and started looking for opportunities overseas.

In December of 2018, after signing with an agent, Louin got her first crack when Grengewald Hostert was interested in signing her. Joining the team late didn’t prove too much of a detriment from the basketball aspect, where Louin averaged 23.2 points per game in 20 contests with the team and capped it off with a deep buzzer-beating three to win the league championship.

Most European league limit the amount of American players teams can have on their roster and the Total League is no exception, allowing two per club. While Louin arrived midway through the season in a foreign country, she had some helped getting adjusted thanks to teammate Samantha Cooper, who had arrived in August after a career at Fairfield University.

“It was also her first year playing professionally, but she knew the ins and outs so we had a great relationship,” Louin said. “Since I’ve started playing overseas, all my teammates have spoken some English but there’s always that looming language barrier. It’s something you don’t think about but you have to work to form those relationships so your team is close as it can be and that translates to open communication and trusting your teammates.”

She was chasing her goal to play professional basketball, but Louin knew she was also taking a leap of faith in many ways. Even in college, the Doylestown native was never far from home but this was something totally different.

Having second thoughts or doubts was natural, but Louin learned quickly she couldn’t dwell on them.

“To be honest, those thoughts are in the back of your head every day,” Louin said. “In Finland, the sun was setting at three o’clock, it’s dark and it’s cold and there’s always that voice in the back of your head asking ‘what am I doing here?’ Ultimately it’s the relationships with your team and your coaches that help push you through the season. If you think about it like ‘I’m going to be here the next seven months,’ it affects you and you can’t think that way, you have to take it day by day and focus on the small victories as much as the big ones.”

Finishing her first professional season with a championship, Louin sought a different setting for her second season abroad. An opportunity came from Torpan Pojat (ToPo), a Finnish club in the major city of Helsinki, which was just the environment Louin was looking for in the 2019-20 season.

Although she went on to have her most productive season in terms of statistics, it was also one that tested her plenty away from the court. This time the only American on her team, she again had to adapt to a new culture in a foreign country where she didn’t speak the native language in a relatively harsh climate.

“Finland was a tough transition,” Louin said. “In Luxembourg, everyone was very friendly and wanted to help you whereas in Finland, the people are little more stoic and reserved and as the only American there, I lived on my own and kind of had to figure everything out on my own within a culture that wasn’t very inviting.”

The team wasn’t able to chase a title, but Louin was a force averaging 28 ppg and 10.3 rebounds in 22 games. On top of leading the league in scoring, Louin was named the Korisliiga Guard of the Year and was a First Team All-Finnish League and All-Import team selection.

Louin attributed her productivity as a byproduct of her surroundings.

“There was nothing else for me to do other than workout,” Louin said. “I had a gym membership with 24-hour access and it was right next to the apartment building I was staying in. Jimmy Butler, I think a couple summers ago, I remember reading he locked himself away without wifi and TV, and I had access to those things but it made me think about that.

“I kind of channeled my inner Jimmy Butler I guess and spent a lot of time in the gym trying to get better.”

Louin said she’s thankful she had the opportunity to go through that experience but when it came time to find a home for this season, she looked back to Luxembourg. With COVID-19 starting to take a firmer hold on Europe in the spring of 2020, that familiarity and comfort was critical as Louin tried to plan her next step.

The entire process was different, with Louin having to apply for a visa earlier than usual, taking a flurry of COVID tests before heading to Luxembourg and staying in constant contact with the Grengewald Hostert coaches about the status of the season.

She got off to another good start, averaging close to 23 ppg before the country went on lockdown and the season went on hold. With no timeline on a restart and no access to the club’s facilities, Louin again had to adapt to her situation.

“We ended up bringing a lot of the gym equipment into our apartment,” Louin said. “It was a scene, we were lugging these benches and weights up the stairs; we had a full home gym in our living room. I tried to get them let us bring a treadmill into our apartment too but ultimately failed at that.”

Eventually, the team was able to find a gym in Germany it could drive to for practices and about six weeks after the suspension of the Total League season, Grengewald Hostert competed in a EuroCup qualifier. She returned home shortly after but has tried to remain optimistic the season will resume and left some of her belongings in her Luxembourg apartment.

However the remainder of this season plays out, Louin said she aims to play the 2020-21 season. She’s also on track to graduate with her MBA this spring, something she’s worked to achieve during her pro career and has taken up team and individual training during her offseason.

Basketball has taken Louin places she never expected and provided lessons she wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else. From a championship game-winning shot in a gym in Luxembourg to a sunset on the Rhine River in Cologne, Germany, it’s a journey she hopes doesn’t end anytime soon.

“It gives you perspective,” Louin said. “I come from Doylestown, a small little town in Pennsylvania and seeing these major cities and other countries, you get perspective that there’s so much more out there and there’s so much you can do if you’re willing to take the chance.”

Photo courtesy of Alex Louin. Caption: Alex Louin (left) drives past a defender while playing for BBC Grengewald Hostert during the 2018-19 season.