Alex Easterbrook may have been improperly typecast.
She spent most of her first three seasons spelling point guards off the bench, working primarily as a ballhandler, which shes incredibly adept at.
But this year, born of a combination of her skillset and a lineup need, shes rebranded herself as a true combo guard, starting every single game and averaging 10.2 points per game while spending a good chunk of the game off the ball.
Meanwhile, Katerina Garcia, whom Easterbrook spelled off the bench last year more often than not, serves as the primary ballhandler, with Erin Curry handling a bevy of the secondary point-guard responsibilities.
When I first watched her play, you know, she was just a natural combo guard, FLC head coach Jason Flores said. She wasnt better with the ball in her hand or worse; it was just if she had it in her hands early, she was able to run things like a point guard, but she was also effective scoring more out of a wing position.
And when Easterbrook does handle the ball, she still has a steady touch. Her assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.4 tops the conference and is fifth in the nation, and her 83 overall assists are fourth in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference a list Garcia tops with 106.
Easterbrook, though, doesnt have a preference. With the ball or without, she said shes just fine. And she said shes enjoyed the chance to play alongside Garcia, something the duo didnt get much of a chance to do last year with a deeper frontcourt rotation thats since given way to a four-guard lineup this season.
I honestly dont really have a preference, the senior from Scottsdale, Ariz., said. I trust the ball in Kats hands more than anything, so playing alongside her is something Ive always liked to do.
I think we both just like to play fast. ... We tag team and go double-team people in full-court (pressure defense), and we like to run on offense, and she finds people.
Flores needed that versatility Easterbrook provides, as well, adding that in his system, a player cant be a one-trick pony. And its paid off not just offensively but defensively, where shes a key cog in a pressure defense thats rounded into shape as the seasons gone on, forcing 19 turnovers per game good for second in the conference.
She is our best defender, Flores said. Every game, we put her on their best player if its not a true post. Shes guarded quicker kids; shes guarded longer wings.
Her versatility has led to a drastic rise in minutes from last season. Easterbrook is playing 31.1 minutes per game this year, up from 17.9 as a junior, and shes started every game after making just 10 starts last season, this year helping lead a team trying to claw its way to an NCAA Tournament berth. While starting isnt a foreign concept to Easterbrook she was a four-year starter at Cactus Shadows High School its taken some getting used to after coming off the bench the last three seasons.
Its definitely taken a toll on my body, she said. I feel old but in a good way. I enjoy playing a lot of minutes. I wouldnt trade it for anything. ... Ive loved every minute of this year.
Neither would Flores, who counts Easterbrook as the steadiest player on the team this season. And shes likely the smartest, becoming just the ninth Academic All-American in FLC history after being named to the third team this week.
I really dont think wed have had the success weve had without her, Flores said. Theres a lot of factors that go into it, but without her, I truly believe that.