Athletic, academic skills speak volumes for Thomas Jefferson senior guard

| Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Alexis Yanief gets flustered when forced to talk about herself. When asked about her numerous accolades, athletically and academically, she didn't know what to say.

“I'm really bad at interviews,” she said. “I don't like to talk about myself.”

Yanief doesn't need to do much talking as the star of the Thomas Jefferson girls' basketball team. One look at the scorer's sheet will say enough.

As a 5-foot-8 senior guard, she leads the Lady Jaguars in scoring this season.

“She's very athletic,” Phil Shar, TJ's first-year head coach, said. “She always looks to get to the hoop.”

An all-section selection a year ago, Yanief was named to the Daily News Fabulous 15 as a sophomore and junior, and recently committed to play hoops at Millersville University in Lancaster, Pa.

“I've coached a lot of PSAC (Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference) players and she's going to fit right in (at) Division II,” Shar said.

Thomas Jefferson is 4-2 overall and 1-0 in Section 4-AAA following its 50-41 win Monday against visiting Brownsville.

Despite all the individual success, what Yanief wants more than anything is to return to the WPIAL playoffs — somewhere the TJ girls haven't been the past two seasons.

“I would like my team to make the playoffs, and (I would like) do a lot better than I've been doing,” Yanief modestly said.

Recently, Shar and Yanief have been working on her transition game. Instead of driving to the net, another option is pulling up for a shot at the 3-point line.

“She shoots really well, but she's used to driving,” Shar said. “We're changing it from all-driver to 50-50.”

Along with competing in basketball, Yanief has played soccer for four years at Thomas Jefferson. Dduring her freshman year, she also competed in track and field.

As a forward in soccer, Yanief led the team in scoring in 2013 with 20 goals and was named all-section.

Still, if you ask her, she's more interested in schoolbooks and homework than fast-breaks and layups.

“I want to go in to the medical field,” Yanief said. “Maybe (be) a doctor or physician assistant.”

In a class of about 250 students, Yanief has the 18th highest grade-point average with her 4.0. The school and sports load, Yanief admits, was challenging at first, but she's discovered a way to find a happy medium through crucial time management.

“Sophomore was the big year that I started piling everything on,” Yanief said. “I always felt like I could handle them, and I wanted a more challenging course.”

Yanief takes AP chemistry, calculus and AP European history, and is a member of the National Honor Society and Spanish National Honor Society.

“Academically, I would like to keep my GPA (at 4.0),” Yanief said.

Yanief has put in some long days as a highly accomplished TJ student-athlete. She explains that after practice it's all about homework.

“I usually start my homework (after practice) and then that takes me to 10 p.m.,” she said.

With so much on her plate it's no wonder Yanief doesn't have time to practice interviews. But, as Shar explains, she does her talking through action.

“(Teammates) see the way she's performing and they more or less play harder,” Shar said. “I guess you would call it the domino effect, or trickle-down effect.”

Yanief, ever bashful, just likes to think of it all as her doing her job.

“I don't know,” Yanief said. “That's what I always do.”

Justin Criado is a freelance writer.

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