Martha Alwal goes up to shoot the basketball for the Lady Bulldogs last season. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)
Martha Alwal was so impressive with her defense in her first season at center for the Mississippi State Lady Bulldogs that she made the All-Southeastern Conference Freshman Team.
The 82 blocked shots for Alwal last season led the league and was the third-most in a single season for MSU. She enters her sophomore year already fifth on the school's all-time swat list.
As good as Alwal was for the Lady Bulldogs in 2011-12, coach Vic Schaefer believes she can be even better.
"Her upside is tremendous," Schaefer said. "It's going to come down to how good Martha wants to be and how much effort and work ethic are you going to put in to become the best you are going to be.
"We talk about it all the time that victory is a result of countless hours of hard work and dedication. There's not enough hours in the day in practice to reach your full potential. Great players are made in the gym when nobody is looking."
The Worthington, Minn., native led MSU in rebounding last season with 7.2 boards per game and was the fourth-leading scorer with 5.4 points per game.
Providing a scoring option for the Lady Bulldogs is something Alwal believes she can be for the Lady Bulldogs.
"I feel like I have improved my offensive game," Alwal said. "I'm trying to get in more of an offensive mode and get a rhythm going. I believe I can average a double-double if I come in with the right mindset. I just need to become more confident and not get too down on myself and I can be that kind of player."
Even though Alwal gives MSU someone who can score in the post, the strength of her game remains defense.
That's fine with Schaefer as long as she's smart about it.
"She likes to block shots and she's good at it," Schaefer said. "At the same time, people will set her up for that and the next thing you know, she's blocked two and has two fouls. It's important for us that we work with her and teach her to stay out of those situations by fronting that low post and giving someone a chance to catch it and defend them. If you don't have to defend them, you are not in a position to foul them. It's important she becomes a good help defender."
Alwal is enough of a defensive presence for the Lady Bulldogs that it has opposing coaches in the SEC trying to figure out how to attack her.
"She changes the game because she is a great defender and athletic, but she plays so hard and that's the big thing," Alabama coach Wendell Hudson said. "You've got players with talent, but she gets the most out of her talent and really plays at another level. It makes a difference when she's in the basketball game because of the competitive nature she has.
"With her length and put with it she plays so hard, that's a tough combination. Any long player that can play at that level and with that type of competition, can cause all kinds of problems in a basketball game."
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