As the clock expired in Renaissance Coliseum on Jan. 22 against Indiana State, Bradley women’s basketball might not have left with the win, but the crowd of over 500 left with the name Rouse stuck in their heads.
After a career high of 18-points, sophomore guard Alex Rouse was one of the bright spots of light from a team caught in a rebuild.
“She’s very quick, which is something that works really well with our team and our dynamic,” senior forward Veronika Roberts said. “Lately, she has been stepping up a lot in scoring and rebounding.”
Rising from the ashes of last season’s 4-24 record and former head coach Andrea Gorski’s retirement, it left the opportunity for others to breathe new life into the team.
“They [the transfers] bring in a new type of energy. It changes everything up, especially with Alex, her being so quick and good on defense and seeing it translate into the offense,” Roberts said.
An active transfer portal on both sides of the spectrum left Bradley with four new transfers calling the Hilltop home.
Among those was Rouse, who assistant coach Armelia Horton had previously scouted for Loyola-Chicago before making the move to Peoria.
“So, we’re going through the portal and looking at kids and she’s like: ‘There’s a sleeper out of Norfolk, Va.,’” Braves head coach Kate Popovec-Goss said. “We knew she was athletic, and that was something that we needed.”
Rouse, who spent her first year in college playing for Old Dominion University, made eight appearances and scored just five points all season.
However, Rouse headed for the portal at the end of her freshman year at ODU as she felt the Monarchs weren’t the right fit.
“I learned a lot so that I could apply it to my next school,” Rouse said. “To push through when things aren’t going your way, you have to get going and not stop and have confidence in yourself.”
A fierce player who often lets her performance on the court do the talking, Rouse had various options where she could have gone, but Popovec-Goss was able to nudge her to Peoria.
“I felt Bradley was a better fit overall, the players, coaches, and the environment was just better,” Rouse said.
The move to Peoria for the Little Rock, Ark., native made sense as it would allow her family to come watch her games since they had been a big influence in her basketball journey.
“Last year, I was 16 hours away so no one really got to come watch me play,” Rouse said. “I was talking to Murray State a little bit but I felt that [Bradley] was a better fit.”
The athletic gene runs deep in the Rouse household as her father is former Chicago Bears fullback James Rouse, who played with the team in 1990 and 1991. Her brother Trey Rouse, played basketball for the Division III Hendrix College Warriors and they all bonded over their love of the sport.
Before heading into the life of managing between a college degree and the demands of Division I collegiate basketball, Rouse ended her high school career as the all-time leading scorer. She accumulated over 2,000 points and made sectionals during her senior year at Joe T. Robinson High School.
“[She’s] a two-way player, super aggressive on both ends of the floor, can create her own shot with the ability to take over a game offensively and defensively with her presence,” Popovec-Goss said. “As a coach, when you get someone who wants to play even harder on the defensive end of the floor than they want to on offense, it’s always a luxury to have.”
Bringing along the perseverance and confidence that she took from ODU and her time in high school is evident when you see how this Bradley side continues to fight through a game no matter what the scoreboard might say.
Coming in this season, Rouse has already beaten her marks from freshman year with the Monarchs, playing in every game so far for the Braves and averaging 11.5 points per game this season, good enough for second on the team. The sophomore is an important rebounder on the defensive end, averaging 4.1 rebounds per contest.
“The best is yet to come for her in terms of what she is capable of doing on the court,” Popovec-Goss said. “But also in terms of her leadership [because] she is starting to find her voice.”