COVINGTON, Ga. — A career high scoring night for Alysee Dobbs began with a non-verbal answer to her coach’s question.
The Eastside Lady Eagles were in a Region 4-AAAA battle with No. 6 Luella Tuesday, and during the first half, junior point guard T’Niah Douglas was finding it hard to get herself, and the offense, going because of the way the Lady Lions were defending her.
So Eastside coach, Gladys King issued a challenge.
“They were playing a box-and-one,” King said. “They were trying to keep the ball out of T’Niah’s hands. So I at halftime, I asked them the question. I said, ‘So who’s gonna step up? Who’s gonna step up and show them that she’s not the one they need to be worried about?’ And I guess Alysee answered the call. She was the one.”
Dobbs responded in a big way — to the tune of 31 points, eight rebounds and three steals in Eastside’s 65-55 loss.
To find the last time King coached a player that had that kind of single-game scoring output, King said she had to go back to her days coaching Rockdale when Breanna Richardson a — former Rockdale and Mississippi State player — scored 34 points one night for a Sweet 16-bound Lady Bulldogs squad.
But although the Eastside-Luella game was a setback on the scoreboard for the Eagles, it served as a bit of a coming out party for Dobbs and a sign that this Lady Eagles squad can compete with anyone in a tough region that also features last season's Class AAAA runner up, Henry County.
“I feel very excited for her and the way she’s playing right now,” King said. “Alysee has been getting in the gym on off days and on Sundays, working, and it’s showing up on the court. She’s putting the work in at practice. You practice how you play. So she practices hard in the gym, and she plays hard in games.”
Though it was the biggest game of Dobbs’ career, she hasn’t allowed it to swell her head.
“I didn’t really pay attention to the night I was having,” Dobbs said. “I was just really interested in helping my team out, and I just noticed that my shots were falling, and I think I only missed like two shots that night. I just kept working and pushing until the game was over. I was just happy that I was able to help my team, and I didn’t get a big head about it.”
The change in Dobbs’ game has become noticeable since she started doing extra work with former Eastside star and Iowa State standout, Marquis Gilstrap and Team Strap. She credits that work to helping her increase her range as a shooter while improving her footwork.
And although Dobbs was the star for that night — and has been the team’s leading scorer through the season’s first six games — her progress has been just a part of the whole when discussing Eastside’s improvement as a team.
The Eagles have gotten off to a 3-3 start overall and a 2-1 mark in Region 4-AAAA before Friday and Saturday’s region games with Woodward Academy and Salem. It’s the first time since the 2013-14 season that a Lady Eagles team has gotten to three wins before the Christmas break. To be sure, it’s still a long season. But Dobbs said she likes what she’s seeing from a team cohesiveness standpoint.
“The more we work together, the stronger our bond,” Dobbs said. “Everybody’s been playing with each other since middle school, and we all have a good bond with each other right now. And we connect easily on the court.”
Dobbs’ athletic prowess doesn’t stop on the basketball court. She’s a standout on Eastside’s softball team that won a Region 4-AAAA championship in 2017 and came just short of that and another Columbus berth this past season.
In fact, although she got her first taste of Eastside athletics success on the softball diamond, it’s basketball that’s been — and continues to be — her first love.
“In softball, you can have a good game on defense or offense,” she said. “In softball some people don’t play offense. They just play defense. And in basketball, you have to play offense and defense, and you’ve gotta push until you can’t go anymore. With basketball, I always have love for it. Even if it’s softball season, I’ve always got a basketball in my hand.”
For King, that has to be a sight for sore eyes. The fourth-year coach has talked several times before of how when she first arrived at Eastside, the toughest chore was trying to get her new players to start treating basketball like something more than just a hobby to pass the time.
Dobbs is part of that new breed of Lady Eagle ballers that has begun to buy in to the year-round basketball focus King has been preaching.
“She’s shown the necessary heart and determination to have this success,” King said. “It’s a mind thing. When you have heart, willpower, know the game, love the game and want to improve your game, it takes all of that. You have to know what’s in your heart. That’s the drive. You determine your destiny. Alysee determined that she wanted to be good and she wanted to be great, and that’s what she’s done. She’s determined she wants to be great.”
It’s getting to the point now where Dobbs is starting to get that college hoops itch. She studies the game of former South Carolina star, A’ja Wilson who now plays for the Las Vegas Aces of the WNBA.
She does it because that’s the same kind of trajectory she wants her career to take.
And King definitely sees Dobbs taking her game to that next level. She acknowledges that it isn’t realistic to expect her to score “30 or 40 points a game,” as she expects opposing teams to start employing some of the same junk defense strategies against her that Luella used against Douglas.
But with region games with Woodward Academy (Friday), at Salem (Saturday) and against fourth-ranked Henry County at home on Tuesday, Dobbs will have plenty of opportunities to begin proving that her Luella explosion wasn’t just an aberration, and that it is, indeed, a sign that she’s rounding into a legit college prospect.
“I definitely feel like she’s ready for the next level,” King said. “There are things to work on as far as conditioning. But she shoots the ball very well. Her defense will have to improve in order to go to that next level, and as far as what schools, (college) division or region, we’ll have to look at that and see. A lot of times it’s about quickness, speed and size that determines that, and it’s all about what the college coaches need.
“But if coaches are needing a scorer, they should definitely be looking at Alysee Dobbs.”