A basketball journey paved with determination, faith, and focus.
Learn about Alysha's basketball career and her unique path to success.
"If you asked me, as a freshman in high school, if I saw myself, 15 years later, where I am now… I would’ve laughed in your face and said 'no way.' I still have a long way to go, but this work ethic and perspective of mine are going to help me get there.”
Two-time WNBA champion, Alysha Clark, has achieved the highest basketball honors for a female professional athlete, but not without journeying down a road of challenges, painful setbacks, and agonizing obstacles
In high school, Alysha tried out for the basketball team with the goal of using basketball to stay in shape for volleyball and track. Little did she know, God was forging a different plan.
“In order to make the team freshman year, we were told we had to dribble with our left and right hand, yet I barely knew what a pivot was or even how to shoot properly,” Alysha recalls.
Upon making the junior varsity team, purely on athleticism, Alysha considered herself the worst player on the team, yet she was determined to remain on the roster. At the end of the season, Alysha was the only freshman to advance to the varsity squad.
Despite her advance to varsity, she never got any playing time, but she challenged herself to outwork her teammates.
Just as Alysha was getting the hang of things, her family moved to Tennessee, the mecca of women’s basketball. Surrounded by athletes with unparalleled intensity and toughness who had been shooting the ball since they could walk, Alysha knew she had some work to do to stay afloat.
“This was a turning point for me,” Alysha shares, “because my new high school coaches taught me fundamentals that I now rely on as a professional.”
Alysha spent hours upon hours in the gym with her best friend and best friend's dad, and with time and dedication, she started to resemble a basketball player that fit the mold of an elite Mt. Juliet athlete.
During the season of her junior year, Alysha cracked her hip, the same injury that ended Bo Jackson’s career.
Devastation quickly set in, as her hard work and rising talents were now stunted by this season-ending injury. Doctors were unsure if Alysha would ever play again, let alone return in time for the playoffs. Thoughts of turning basketball into something more disappeared from Alysha’s mind.
Despite her injury, Alysha’s spirit of competition and love for her teammates remained. Alysha began to learn the game in a different way, now watching from the sidelines and assisting her coaches. When the time came to start walking without crutches, Alysha yet again questioned her ability to return to the court. The pain was near unbearable, but she masked her struggle because she wanted to get back out on the court. On the day of her evaluation, Alysha ran the floor and played one-on-one in the post, telling everyone she felt great, even though the pain was excruciating. Her goal was to return for regional playoffs, and so she completed workouts for her coaches and trainers before they cleared her to practice with the team.
Alysha remembers the three-hour bus ride to Henry County like it was yesterday, a time when she was anxiously awaiting playoffs, the same playoffs she never thought would be possible due to her hip injury. She listened to the same song, over and over, to prepare for the playoff game – T.I.’s “Be Easy” – yet she could barely keep her hands from shaking. This was her moment – the moment she worked so hard to return to, yet that moment was met with another injury – an ankle sprain in the third quarter – as Alysha received word from the medical staff that she would be out the rest of the season.
The next couple of months were spent rehabbing and preparing for summer AAU, and as her senior year approached, Alysha’s coach requested each player write a list of five goals, three of which were to be personal.
At that moment, Alysha identified her weakness, a weakness that remains a double-edged sword in her on-court life – focusing on herself as opposed to the team.
“I believed that if I identified personal goals, I would be a selfish player,” Alysha shared, yet her coaches felt the opposite. They believed if each player were at their best, the overall team would play at their best, too. And so, Alysha listed her goals – shoot a FT % of 75 or more, win a state championship, win Miss Basketball, and average double-digit rebounds – four goals which inevitably foreshadowed the massive success of her senior year.
Alysha walked away from her senior year as a state champion, Miss Basketball, and Tennessee Gatorade Player of the Year, among other awards – a true dream for this once rising star.
Her exceptional high school career led to an athletic-academic scholarship to Belmont in Saint Clairsville, Ohio. Full speed ahead, from an exceptional senior year into her first year in college, Alysha was the first player in the league to ever earn “Freshman of the Year” and “Player of the Year.” Alysha’s sophomore year ended with an NCAA tournament appearance, the team’s first in history.
Despite the incredible accolades and achievements, Alysha remained focused on how she could improve.
“I knew I had more in me. I knew I had more to learn, and I wanted to challenge myself, even more, to see if I could really play with the top players around the country,” Alysha shared.
During those moments of heavy reflection, Alysha realized she should step out on faith and transfer to another program, leading her to Middle Tennessee State – a university that appeared to be the right fit for Alysha and her style of play.
After an emotionally-taxing redshirt year, feeling the anguish of putting in the work yet not being able to play, Alysha was ready to give it her all come junior year and stay true to her long-term goal – test herself against the top competition in the country.
During her senior year, Alysha began thinking about the potential of playing professionally, and the opportunity seemed within reach, yet her drive and motivation shifted to self-pressure, leading Alysha to countless nights of stress and angst.
“I just didn’t feel like myself,” Alysha shares. “I put so much pressure on myself to not let my teammates, coaches, family, and fans down. I was accomplishing so much, most for the first time in collegiate history and in my family, so I put on this happy face because that’s how someone should be when all this great stuff is happening, but I didn’t feel good enough. I was comparing myself to these other players around the country and feeling like I wasn’t anywhere close.”
Self-doubt plagued her mind as she approached the end of her senior year.
Would I be good enough to play on a professional level?
Would I get a chance to try out in the WNBA?
Comparison is the thief of joy, a truly fierce competitor, yet Alysha was determined to remain a victor.
Then, she got the call – Alysha was informed that she was one of 14 women invited to the WNBA draft, the stage she had worked so hard to reach.
With her parents and coach by her side, she graciously welcomed the opportunity to play in the WNBA as the 17th overall pick.
“Seeing the proud look on my parents’ faces is all I ever wanted,” Alysha recalls. “I wanted to make them proud.”
Team camp quickly approached, and Alysha was tasked with learning a great deal in a short time. Although the pressure was on, Alysha loved every moment of being challenged and pushed outside of her comfort zone. However, on the last day of camp in San Antonio, Alysha was cut from the team, and feeling crushed was an understatement. Waves of sadness and feelings and failure drowned her heart, yet she mustered the courage to focus on her first year overseas in Israel.
“I told myself I would give the WNBA one more shot,” Alysha said, “and if I didn’t stick, I would just play overseas.”
Unfortunately, Alysha was cut a second time in San Antonio. However, she knew one more shot was all she needed. Eight years later, Alysha is a 2x Israeli League champion, named to EuroLeague Women's 2nd Team, Israeli Cup champion, Israeli Cup MVP, Israeli League MVP, Polish League champion, Polish League MVP, Polish League “Forward of the Year,” 2018 and 2020 WNBA champion, WNBA all-defensive 2nd team, French League champion, 2x WNBA State Farm Community Assist Award winner, and the only woman to be named unanimously to the WBNA 1st Team All-Defense.
The injuries, devastation, and moments of self-doubt were, at one point, debilitating, yet a testament to Alysha’s on- and off-court character – a woman who refuses to quit and a person who encounters challenges and overcomes with grace and strength.
“All the relationships I’ve built, all the lessons I’ve learned, all the experiences, have put me in a position to take one more step up this career ladder. I’ve earned a role within an organization and on a team, and I’ve once more challenged myself in a new country, playing against some of the best players in the world,” Alysha shares. “If you asked me as a freshman in high school if I saw myself, 15 years later, where I am now…I would’ve laughed in your face and said no way. I still have a long way to go, but this work ethic and changed perspective of mine are going to help me get there.”