Alexander the Great

Cliff Alexander's season didn't end the way he'd hoped, but he still proved that he belongs as a top 10 player nationally. He talks about his development and a recent visit to Illinois.

It was the matchup everyone wanted to see. Not only would the game pit two of the top big men in the state of Illinois, but also two of the top big men in the country in the class of 2014.

Curie's Cliff Alexander went head-to-head with Whitney Young's Jahlil Okafor, the number one overall player in the class of 2014. And the matchup did not disappoint.

Ultimately Curie fell 62-58 in the end, but Alexander showed that he can hold his own against the best out there.

"I just came out ready to play," Alexander said. "A lot of people have been saying that he's better than me and I wanted to come out and prove them wrong. I think I made a statement about that"

Alexander displayed hook shots over both shoulders that Okafor had trouble stopping. The time spent in the gym was evident.

"I've been working on my moves all season and being dominant in the paint," he said. "I'm still working on my moves in the paint and my jump shot all the time, though."

At one point early in the third quarter, guard Marcellis Davis threw a Harlem Globetrotter-like behind the back pass to a trailing Alexander for a huge slam that brought the fans to their feet. For Curie, Alexander is the energy guy.

"I bring a lot of energy and try to build my team up," he said.

Numerous schools are pursuing Alexander, and recently he took a visit to Champaign-Urbana to see Illinois defeat Nebraska. It marked Alexander's first game in Champaign this year.

"I came down and watched the game (against Nebraska)," he said. "It was a great game. I really love Coach Groce's coaching ability."

Specifically, Alexander had his eyes on Illinois big men Nnanna Egwu and Sam Mclaurin.

"Their big men were doing great shooting jump shots and getting in the paint," Alexander said.

Alexander is looking to end up at a school that runs an uptempo system. So he does feel that Illinois fits his ability to run the floor well.

"I really want to get out and run," he said. "I always like beating their big man up the floor. My game translates a lot to that. I like to get the rebound, push, and go."

Alexander puts a lot of weight on the relationships he has with coaching staffs at various schools. And although Coach Groce hasn't even been at Illinois for a year, he has already formed a great bond with Alexander.

"Coach Groce is a great guy with a great personality," he said. "He's funny and he's a great guy to be around."

Another thing Alexander values significantly is respect. The last time we caught up with him, he mentioned the importance of getting respect from the schools recruiting him. Illinois has shown him a great deal, and it's making a big impression on him.

"I'm getting a lot of respect from Illinois," Alexander said. "Coach P (Paris Parham) is a great guy. Coach (Jamall) Walker is a great guy. The whole coaching staff is great. Coach P, that's my man. He's funny and has been showing me a lot of interest."

But don't look for Alexander to rush into a decision any time soon. Most guys jump right into recruiting once their seasons end, but Alexander is in no rush to hit the road or anything like that.

"I'm still taking my time with everything," he said. "I don't really have any visits set up."

And with AAU season fast-approaching, Alexander isn't about to take any days off.

He simply said, "Starting tomorrow, I'm just going to get back in the gym."

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