Girls basketball: Alexis Nelson commits to New Mexico State

Story Image West Aurora's Alexis Nelson drives to the basket against Naperville North on Saturday, Jan. 07, 2012. | Donnell Collins~For Sun-Times Media

Updated: June 7, 2012 7:13PM

In the fast-paced world of college basketball recruiting, things can change quickly — both in the negative and the positive.

Just ask recent West Aurora graduate Alexis Nelson.

Nelson, West Aurora’s career and single-season three-point leader and an all-DuPage Valley Conference selection last year, thought she was headed to Wagner University on Staten Island in New York City to play college basketball.

Then on Feb. 29, longtime coach Gela Miklauaskas — the coach who recruited Nelson — suddenly retired. New coach Lisa Cermignano, a former Illinois assistant coach, was hired on April 4. But since she had never seen Nelson play in person, she passed on the Blackhawks guard, who had yet to sign her national letter of intent.

That sent Nelson in search of a new college basketball home. After months of contacting coaches and sending out DVDs of her play along with her uncle, Rick Nelson, she found a new opportunity this week — 2,100 miles west of Staten Island in Las Cruces, N.M.

Tuesday, Nelson committed to New Mexico State. She will report to the Aggies in two weeks.

“It was a long process, but this came together quickly,” Alexis Nelson said. “They watched a DVD of the East/West (Aurora) game and they offered me a scholarship on the phone. It’s amazing.”

West Aurora coach Connie Siljendahl has sent several players on to the next level, including Bri Tye (Robert Morris) and Kyra Watson (Murray State), who are former Blackhawks still playing in college. She knows the crazy world of college recruiting. With coaches retiring and being fired and players transferring, among other issues, things can change quickly.

“It’s amazing how many schools still had scholarships left,” Siljendahl said. “People can get misplaced (in recruiting). It worked out good for her.”

Siljendahl saw how hard her 5-foot-7 point guard worked and how talented she was for years, and she knows Nelson will be able to make an impact for the Aggies and coach Mark Trakh.

“She has extremely good skills,” Siljendahl said. “It’s amazing how much she’s matured and the confidence she’s gained. I know she can play at that level. She has the body composition and the size for a point guard to handle herself.”

When Nelson made her commitment, she figured she’d have a summer at home to prepare for moving all the way to New Mexico, but she had no such luck. She went from being without a college to needing a plane ticket to New Mexico in two weeks when she made her commitment.

“When I first got the news, the first day, I was nervous and scared,” Nelson admitted. “I was talking to my mom, and she didn’t know how to help me. I thought I’d have a summer here before I left. The emotions started then. It’s a great opportunity to further my career and make something of myself. It’s depressing a little bit that I have to leave home so fast and live on my own, but I’m willing to take it on and help their program.”

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