A couple weeks ago, Fresno State women’s basketball coach Jaime White faced a small quandary: Whether to employ sports psychology on her team’s resident sports psychologist.
Through the Bulldogs’ first 19 games, senior guard Alex Furr had made 17 three-pointers. Well off last year’s pace, which resulted in 54.
Someone on the staff noticed that Furr was within striking distance (15 three-pointers, to be precise) of cracking Fresno State’s career top 10 list. The question was whether to make sure Furr noticed, too.
“We went back and forth, ‘Should we tell her? Should we not?’ ” White said. “Because sometimes you have a little anxiety.
“But I said, ‘Well, if she doesn’t know and gets to the end of her career and realizes it, that would be a bummer. Maybe telling her would’ve changed something.’ ”
Coach and player had that talk Feb. 2. The next day Furr made four three-pointers against San Jose State. She hit four more the following game against UNLV, then three against San Diego State and Nevada.
That’s 14 threes in a four-game stretch. After making just 17 in the first 19.
“I told her to let it ride, and she has been. It’s the best coaching move I’ve ever made,” White said with a laugh.
Now with 124 for her career, Furr is one shy of the Bulldogs’ career top 10 and two from vaulting Geri Gainey (1988-91) and Bailey Amundsen (2007-09), who both have 125, into ninth place.
Coach told me, ‘Look, you’re only 15 (threes) away from being in the top 10. Are you going to try to get that?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, I guess I will.’
Fresno State senior guard Alex Furr
All the sixth-year senior needed to start draining threes again was a reminder she was within reach of the top 10?
It’s a question the graduate student in sports psychology can appreciate more than most.
“I guess all I needed was a reminder that I was a shooter and that I had the green light to shoot the ball,” Furr said. “It was good to hear because I was close, and it was a goal. I like goals. I like to reach goals.”
One of the biggest goals is helping the Bulldogs finish the season strong, knock off front-running Colorado State in the Mountain West tournament and return to the NCAAs. Another is completing her master’s degree through Fresno State’s Department of kinesiology.
For her master’s project, Furr is examining how championship-level teams require a precise blend of personality types.
For her master’s project, Furr is examining how championship-level teams require a precise blend of personality types. In her words, “The five people you need on a team to be successful.”
Who are those five people?
Better let Furr explain.
▪ The General: “The person who is the leader by example. They don’t have to be the voice of the team, but when you look at that person you know they’re always going to give it 100 percent.”
▪ The Brains: “On a basketball team, it’s someone who really likes the game plan, scouting the opponent and knowing the plays inside and out. Someone that can get a player who doesn’t know the plays so well into the right spot.”
▪ The Voice: “Someone who is always there cheering, always keeping the energy level high. It doesn’t even have to be someone who plays a lot. Like on our team (junior) Kendra (Martin), who is injured.”
▪ The Diffuser: “Someone who has a good relationship with everybody. If two people got into a fight, they’d be able to step in and diffuse the problem really quick.”
▪ The First Follower: “Someone who knows the team’s objectives and also knows who is worthy of following.”
I’ve looked at the teams I’ve been on at Fresno State and what made our seasons successful.
How did Furr become so interested and knowledgeable in team dynamics? Just look at her Bulldogs career.
She was recruited by former coach Adrian Wiggins out of Athens, Texas, and played one season under him. Next came three seasons under Raegan Pebley and now two under White.
Each of Furr’s three coaches brought their own personalities and styles of play while recruiting different types of players. Winning has been the one commonality.
124 Career three-pointers for senior Alex Furr, placing her 11th on Fresno State’s all-time list
“The reason I’m doing the project is that coaches recruit to talent, and what I’ve learned is the team with the most talent doesn’t always make the best team,” she said. “You have to have the right people.”
Furr’s career has also been interrupted by knee injuries (she tore the ACL in her left knee twice), which is the reason the NCAA granted a sixth year of eligibility.
“Basically she has a Ph.D. in applied coaching,” said Wade Gilbert, a Fresno State professor of sport psychology. “You name it, she’s been through it.”
At the end of the day she walks out of here with two degrees. Not a lot of people can say that.
Fresno State women’s basketball coach Jaime White, on Alex Furr
Currently enjoying her third straight healthy season – she leads the Bulldogs in minutes – Furr calls the injuries and two years she sat out rehabilitating them “a blessing in disguise.”
Besides making her less centered on basketball, they sparked interest in her field of study.
“I didn’t take any pride in school when I got here,” Furr said. “Basketball was my whole life, and the injuries kind of woke me up. They made me focus on school and introduced me to sports psychology because I had the fear of re-injuring myself coming back to play.
“Until my injuries, I didn’t even know sports psychology was a thing.”
It’s a thing, all right. Just check Furr’s escalating three-point total.