When the ASU Belles basketball team needed a new head coach after a 1-13 season in 2021, it was perfect timing for Alesha Ellis.
A Plainview native and former Texas Tech basketball standout, Ellis was already a four-time Sooner Athletic Conference Coach of the Year at Wayland Baptist University in her hometown. But the ASU job came open just when she and her husband/assistant coach, Andy, were looking for a new challenge. A visit to campus sealed the deal.
“The athletic director, James Reid, was awesome to us, and he was a big part of why we moved here,” Ellis said. “He made us feel wanted, and that’s special. We went on other visits, but they didn’t feel that way. We knew from the beginning that if J.R. offered us the ASU job, this was the place we wanted to be.”
“Coming to ASU also made us grow, and we knew it would,” she added. “Coming from a smaller school was a learning process, as was building a new team. But we have to grow as coaches because we have to be strong for our players.”
Ellis needed all her strength as the Belles got off to a 0-8 start to the 2021-22 season.
“That was tough on everybody,” she said, “But we learned that if you stick with the process, stay positive with your players and keep believing in them, you can turn it around. It was the small daily battles we won, both on the coaching side and players’ side, that kept us motivated to find a way to win each day and get better.”
And get better they did, going 15-5 over the rest of the season. That included a 12-4 record in the Lone Star Conference, a victory over defending national champs Lubbock Christian, and qualifying for the LSC Tournament.
“Our players deserve a lot of credit,” Ellis said. “I’m very proud and blessed that we got to coach them this year. They didn’t give up, and that says a lot about their character.”
That type of character also played a key role in Ellis coming to ASU, particularly after visiting with President Ronnie Hawkins Jr. about the university’s Core Values.
“I loved it from the beginning,” Ellis said. “I think more schools need to focus on that, and the fact that ASU is able to offer that really attracted us here. I was really impressed with how President Hawkins explained each Core Value. We love that about ASU.”
“It also helps with recruiting players,” she added. “I think the Core Values make players and students feel safe, included and at home. We want that family environment within our team, and we want our players to feel comfortable and safe in the team and in the university. The Core Values really help us when we’re talking to potential recruits and their parents.”
“We feel like ASU gives us everything we need to be successful.”
Speaking of recruiting, it’s that time of year.
“Recruiting is the toughest part of the job,” Ellis said. “Creating a relationship with a potential recruit takes time. You basically have to become part of their family. Plus, we’re competing against so many other programs, including Division I teams. But if you take the time to create a relationship with them and let their parents know that their kid is going to be taken care of, you have a chance.”
“One thing I love about ASU,” she added, “is that we have everything that a big D-I school has, but we’re small enough to still have the Ram Family environment. I recruit to that, because we’re not lacking anything.”
Ellis is also working on setting up youth camps, as well as community service opportunities for Belles players.
“That helps with recruiting and with fan support,” Ellis said. “Getting into the community and giving back is beneficial for everyone, and that’s important to us.”
Even with all that hard work ahead, Alesha, Andy and their small children, Kingston James and Laiken Jo, are happy they chose Angelo State.
“We love the people here,” Ellis said. “We also feel like ASU gives us everything we need to be successful. The athletic facilities are outstanding and we love the family-oriented atmosphere. We want to offer our players a great experience, and that’s what ASU does. It’s a perfect fit for us.”