STRAFFORD, Mo. — June at the Strafford Sports Center hosted a sight southwest Missouri hadn’t seen in 472 days: Alexa Willard playing basketball.
“I felt a little nervous before,” Willard said laughing. “I was like, what’s wrong with me? It’s just a Pro-Am game. But, you know, I felt good once I got going.”
For the former Missouri State Lady Bear and Stoutland native, it was her first competitive action since playing in Greece.
She got just three games of action in October and November of 2020 before COVID threatened to end yet another chance for her.
“I was over there for like two months, played some games. But then it shut our league down and all the games down there. The whole country, Greece went into lockdown. They had to get me out of there before lockdown. So then I went home.”
Back to the place where COVID had ruined her season the first time, cancelling the Valley tournament just after her Missouri State senior day.
The coronavirus, however, still had one more disappointment coming.
“I was supposed to go to Australia. I signed the contract. My agent was ready for me to go over there. I got my work visa and then the government denied my travel exemption. Because you have to get a travel exemption with COVID to get into Australia. They denied it.”
So riding a third COVID fueled disappointment in two years, Willard finally got word about a chance to play just down the road in Strafford in the Summer Pro-Am League.
“I wasn’t here for the first one because I wasn’t signed up yet. Then I called, because I heard that it was going on. I was like, ‘Hey, can I get in? I just need to play.'”
Now back on the court for the first time in eight months, Willard is just excited to play again
“It’s been good so far, this is my first game. I wasn’t as out of shape, so that was good. I was like thank the Lord.”
And now she’s already looking forward to what could come next.
“I want to go back overseas. I’ve already been talking to some teams, trying to find the right fit for me. I’ve said no to some teams because I just didn’t think I’d like it there. I just didn’t think it was the right fit. Just trying to find the right place for me to go play.”