MISSOULA — Missoula Hellgate grad Alex Covill has been off and running in her freshman season with the Washington State women's basketball program.
The 6-foot-6 center is one of the tallest players in program history, and she's been making her presence felt right away, but the first year in college is also critically about learning the new game.
"It's been great. It's been a really fun experience," Covill told MTN Sports. "I came in early June and then pretty much started workouts right away. So that was really helpful, kind of getting into the groove of everything, getting used to the pace of everything. Obviously, starting weights too, I've definitely noticed I've gained a lot of muscle throughout that time. So it's been like a great couple months, just kind of getting acclimated to everything.
"It was definitely an adjustment, I would say for sure, coming from high school to, obviously D1 basketball. But it was lots of fun. Obviously, I was in the gym with Bella (Murekatete) and all the other fifth-year older seniors that were pushing me and helping me get kind of used to the pace of everything. And yeah, it was it was a great experience. I really enjoyed it."
While learning, Covill has been ready to roll, as Washington State saw a use for her right away as a true freshman, and she has played in all eight of the Cougars' games this year. WSU is 7-1 to start the season.
"We really need her this year," WSU head coach Kamie Ethridge said. "We have a really strong team, she brings a weapon that we do not have and we don't have on the bench, we don't have anywhere. So she changes the game by her size and her length and her protection of the rim. She's skilled, she has a 15-foot range. She can do things that some of our other posts can't do. Her best days are ahead of her so everything we get out of her right now is just, it's just cherry on the top. But we need her to continue to grow and get ready because she's gonna help us this year.
"She's stronger than she appears. She's agile. Her mobility is amazing. There were all those things that you saw, and it's hard to sometimes judge a big kid in high school because they get triple-teamed, and they never have room to operate. They get called for fouls all the time, and then you throw them into the deep end in college, but she's been great. She's really adjusted well, and it's a better game for her, it's suited for her because she can move and work and have room to operate."
Covill was a defensive force at Hellgate thanks to her size and frame, and as a freshman at WSU, she's third in the Pac-12 in blocks per game with 2.1 per contest. So far, Covill is averaging 4.6 points and 2.4 rebounds as well in just over 11 minutes per game.
"It was a little bit nerve-wracking at first. But it's been really fun," Covill said. "And obviously, you know, you're playing with such high-quality teammates and people that are like getting in the gym every day pushing you to be your best. So you definitely feel like you're coming in prepared to the season and you feel like you're getting better every practice with them."
Covill recently made a return to Missoula when the Cougars took on the Montana Lady Griz on Nov. 14 — her parents Nathan and Angella both played basketball at UM — and she carries Montana close to her heart even though she's now making an impact in the Pac-12.
"It feels great. Like, the other day on a football game, when I saw like a person I guess that was from Missoula, and they said, 'Go Knights,' and ... it's awesome to know that there's people around you everywhere that kind of have that same culture and same community as you," Covill said. "It took me a while, I think, to kind of get used to just like, even realizing like, wow, I've made it to this level. But yeah, these past couple months have been great. And I have great teammates and I have a great coaching staff and it's just been wonderful, just kind of getting adjusted to everything."
The Cougars won the Pac-12 tournament last year and have made the NCAA Tournament three straight seasons.
It's a culture of winning, and Covill is right in the thick of it, as a freshman from Montana realizing a dream at college basketball's highest level.
"It feels amazing, just, you know, putting in all that hard work to get to this level, and obviously with my older teammates, you know, supporting me along the way," Covill said. "And my new teammates, my new coaching staff, everyone's just been so supportive, and they've really helped me improve these past couple months."
"I think she really loved it. I think that's why she chose us," Ethridge added. "I think she wanted to see how good she could become. She's excited about her future. I think she looks at our team and the style we play, it fits her, and lets her kind of play to her strengths. We're not going to make her sit in the side and pound it out every single possession. She wanted this level. I think if she wants to be a professional basketball player, she has a chance to do that as she moves on in her career. But she's going to have a tremendous four-year career for us."