Alex Luehring’s basketball career is going in a new direction, but it’s really not about basketball.
Luehring, a former standout at Verona High School, announced Tuesday that she is transferring from UW-Green Bay to the University of Wisconsin women’s basketball team.
The motivation for the move is to be closer to her father Lester, who was diagnosed last August with stage 4 kidney cancer.
“I have decided that I need to be home to support him and my family during this time,” Luehring wrote on her Twitter account. “As an only child, I have always been extremely close to my dad and know it is important for me to be with him.”
Luehring, who redshirted as a freshman at Green Bay last season, approached Phoenix coach Kevin Borseth a month ago to seek permission to contact UW about the possibility of transferring.
“When we got the news that my dad was sick my first reaction was that I want to come home,” Luehring said. “But I made the commitment to Green Bay for a reason and it was really important for my parents, my dad especially, to at least give it a try because we did give them our word. They were really great all year, super understanding and super generous to my family.
“But there’s been a lot of ups and downs with his cancer and the last few weeks there’s really been some downs. Finally I had moment where, almost like an emotional breakdown I guess, where I was very homesick and very worried about my dad. I just finally called my mom one night and was like can I at least ask Wisconsin if it would be a possibility that I could come home?
“It was really hard for me because I really enjoyed Green Bay.”
Borseth gave Luehring his blessing and she contacted UW coach Jonathan Tsipis, who was hired to replace Bobbie Kelsey shortly after Luehring had committed to Green Bay.
“He told me he remembers the first place he watched me play and he could tell me what court I was on and where I was, so that was pretty cool,” Luehring said. “Right away he was super understanding and really great about my situation.
“I just wanted to make sure that he knew I wanted to be here also to be a basketball player. He said he was confident in me as a player as well, so that was really exciting to me, that he knew who I was and that he could see me playing on the team.”
Luehring will appeal to the NCAA for a family hardship waiver so that she will be eligible to play immediately this season. She said that Tsipis was confident that she would receive a waiver.
Luehring, a 6-foot-2 forward, would become the sixth member of the incoming freshman class, joining forwards Carmen Backes and Imani Lewis, guards Diamond Bragg and Jasmine Hale and center Maia Caito.
Luehring averaged 20.5 points during her senior year at Verona as she was named to the Wisconsin State Journal All-Area Girls Basketball First Team and the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association All-State first team. She also was named Big Eight Conference Player of the Year.
While she didn’t play last season, Luehring said her game grew with the help of the UWGB coaches and the playing every day against veterans like Jessica Lindstrom and Caitlyn Hibner in practice.
“I learned so much at Green Bay,” she said. “Their post moves are something they focus on a lot so I have a lot more moves and finishing touches around the basket than I had in high school. I think I just got a lot smarter, trying to guard that caliber of player every day. I think it made me a lot stronger and a lot better than I was in high school.”
Luehring met with all of her new teammates on Monday, but she’s known a couple of them for years. She becomes the third Verona alumna on the team, joining redshirt senior Lexy Richardson and redshirt sophomore Grace Mueller.
“I’m really excited I get to be their teammate again,” said Luehring, who as a senior was ranked as the No. 78 player in the nation by ESPN HoopGurlz. “Growing up here I think it’s everyone’s dream to be a Badger.
“When Bobbie Kelsey was coach it never happened for me so I sort of moved on from that. I really did want to play at Green Bay and I never would’ve left there if it weren’t for this whole situation. But I am very excited to be here now. It is a bittersweet feeling, I would say.”
Palmer lands job
Former UW women’s basketball assistant coach Sasha Palmer has landed a job with Georgia Tech, where she will serve a similar role as assistant coach and recruiting coordinator.
The Watertown native spent three seasons with the UW program, one under Kelsey and the past two under Tsipis.