‘Position-less basketball’ draws Penn Hills’ A’Lysa Sledge to UMass Lowell

Sunday, June 7, 2020 | 4:51 PM

A’Lysa Sledge owns point guard skills and the size of a forward, a combination that lets her play every position on the floor for Penn Hills.

That versatility also makes her an ideal fit for UMass Lowell’s basketball team, so the 5-foot-11 rising senior committed Saturday to River Hawks coach Tom Garrick.

“Coach Garrick calls his style ‘position-less basketball,’ ” Sledge said. “Since I’m a big guard, I will be playing everywhere.”

That’s a role with which she’s already familiar.

At various times, Sledge has played everywhere from point guard to center at Penn Hills, where the Indians went 12-12 last season and reached the WPIAL Class 5A quarterfinals. Her high school coach, Robert Cash, also coaches her AAU team, the Western Pa. Bruins.

“Her size allows her to go in and play the five, if she has to,” Cash said. “She rebounds really well for her position. She’s big and strong, can make jump shots and can do a little bit of everything.”

That position flexibility caught the eye of recruiters. Sledge also had a Niagara offer.

“She’s the one player in her program — whether Penn Hills or the Western Pa. Bruins — that could play (positions) one through five,” Cash said. “And she brings a toughness to the game that not many people have.”

But her natural position is point guard.

“She’s a good floor general,” Cash said. “She understands how to run her team and how to get her team the best shot possible.”

UMass Lowell went 16-15 last season, 11-5 in the conference and reached the America East semifinals. Bishop Canevin grad Shamyjha Price played 31 games and made eight starts as a freshman there last winter.

Garrick, a former NBA player, is entering his third season as coach.

“They made me feel like, once I got up there, it’s going to be home,” Sledge said. “They let it be known that if I come up there and do everything I’ve got to do, it’s guaranteed that I’m going to play.”

The coronavirus pandemic has slowed down the recruiting process for most players in Sledge’s 2021 graduating class because all AAU events were canceled this spring. Sledge likely would’ve had more offers if AAU events weren’t canceled, Cash said.

“When you see someone in person, it gives you a different feel for their game and how good they really are rather than watching film,” Cash said. “She would have had a ton more offers if we had played this spring … because she is an unbelievably talented kid.”

College coaches haven’t had in-person conversations with recruits for months and players haven’t been able to visit campuses, but Sledge said she developed a bond with Garrick’s coaching staff nonetheless.

She received her offer May 11.

“They were the ones I felt really had my back for the next four or five years,” she said.

Chris Harlan is a TribLive reporter covering sports. He joined the Trib in 2009 after seven years as a reporter at the Beaver County Times. He can be reached at charlan@triblive.com.


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