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Curie's Cliff Alexander puts up a jump hook over Simeon's Jabari Parker at Pontiac. | Patrick Gleason~For Sun-Times Media
Curie’s Cliff Alexander was almost too emphatic with the rim.
In the Muskegon Basketball Showcase, the 6-9 junior streaked down the court and threw down a thunderous dunk. The official thought it a little too much and assessed a technical. Condors coach Mike Oliver gave Alexander a look. He knew what it meant.
“[With the look] he said to just go out and dominate and get the win,” Alexander said.
Alexander complied, scoring 16 of his 25 points in the second half, for the No. 8 Condors’ 68-55 victory over Muskegon, Mich. Alexander continued his one-man wrecking crew by adding 15 rebounds and six blocked shots to lift Curie to an 8-5 overall record after its 0-3 start.
His combination of size, strength and athleticism makes him a monster on the floor. His flair and style makes him one of the most purely enjoyable players to watch.
“I think my greatest strength is rebounding and blocking shots,” he said.
That was his foundation. He has expanded and refined his offensive game — showcasing a jump hook, a step back and a face-up jumper. “His offensive game is starting to catch up to his defensive game,” Oliver said.
In the process he has become a better teammate.
“Cliff is the key to our offense because teams are double- and triple-teaming him, and that is leaving our shooters open,” Condors senior guard Marcellis Davis said.
His game is no longer exclusively about the show. He is mastering different parts of the game.
“Cliff got serious about his game and spent a lot of time last summer working on his post moves and footwork,” Oliver said. “Last year we had a lot of seniors and I think a lot of them felt it was their time to get the attention and publicity and Cliff, being a sophomore, he had to wait his turn. He understands now the offense is going to run through him.”
Alexander’s rapid improvement is all the more impressive given he did not start playing organized basketball until the eighth grade. Football was his first love.
“I realized my freshman year I had a chance to be good enough to be a [Division I] recruit,” he said.
Alexander’s strong summer showing at the NBA Players camp and the travel club circuit quickly elevated his national standing. He is rated the No. 4 player in the class of 2014 by Rivals. Young’s 6-11 Jahlil Okafor is the top-rated player.
Alexander believes his own accomplishments are sufficient and he is not going to get into a war of words. “Everybody saw what I did at Pontiac,” he said, alluding to his dominant four-game performance in leading the Condors to a third-place finish.
He saves his best for the big games. He scored 26 points against national-power Oak Hill and averaged nearly 22 points, 10 rebounds and four blocked shots at Pontiac. Best of all, he has a hunger to get better.
“I still need to work on my jump shot, but I’ve worked to improve and expand my game,” he said.
After the Condors’ season-opening three-game losing streak, Alexander took ownership of the team. “After that we said ‘no more losses,’ ’’ he said. “The Hyde Park [overtime victory] was the turning point and we’ve been a different team since then.
“I play every game the same; go out and dominate. We are having a lot of fun.”