By Seth J. Walker
Lawrence Tech’s redshirt junior, Alex Ruster has experienced a lot in her collegiate career. She decided to play for a women’s college basketball team, which didn’t even exist at the start of her high school career, then helped that team reach the NAIA Division II National Tournament as a sophomore in 2016. In the final two minutes of the Blue Devils’ first round game in that tournament, Ruster tore her anterior crucial ligament (ACL), running for a loose ball and hyperextending her right leg, which snapped, after being shoved by the opposing player also going for the ball. Now, she’s back playing this season after missing all of last season with a medical redshirt.
Ruster described the road back to playing as a humbling one that made her love basketball even more.
“There comes a point where you question whether or not you can play basketball again, and that was one of the hardest battles to face,” Ruster said,” My love for basketball is what kept me motivated. I wasn’t going to let an injury stop me from playing the game that I love. I am also a very determined person, so once I set my mind to something; I know I can achieve it.”
Unlike the other uppererclassmen, all starters, Ruster is now a role player who provides the team with depth. However, Blue Devils head coach has been continuously impressed with Ruster’s positivity, effort, and readiness in all situations.
“She doesn’t whine or complain that she’s not playing 40 minutes a game,” Spiegel said. “Alex wants to win; she cheers for her teammates, continues to improve her game and trust in the coaching staff.”
Ruster is a player who regardless of how much or little she plays, comes in ready to play and finds a way to make the most of her opportunity. This includes rebounding and finding teammate Nicole Buckingham for two three pointers in brief action against Detroit Mercy, having a dominant fourth quarter against Earlham on both ends of the floor, or playing key minutes against Indiana Tech with teammates in foul trouble.
What makes Ruster so reliable for the Blue Devils is her versatility. She’s a six-foot forward who can bring the ball down the floor, pass, shoot the three, rebound, score in the post, and guard multiple positions, even getting the occasional steal or block.
“All of my life, coaches tried to tell me that I had to play a post because of my height,” Ruster said. “However, I never wanted to be limited to just playing a post. I wanted to be able to do a little bit of everything. I worked on my shot almost every morning at 5:00AM with my high school coach before class. My teammates and I constantly trained together by incorporating agility and ball handling skills. The key to success is being a gym rat and that’s what I loved being. I always told myself that I wanted to make an impact on the court by doing the little things like rebounding and being able to defend both a guard and a post.”
Ruster’s unique skill set would possibly put her higher on the depth chart or even make her a starter for other local teams in the Wolverine Hoosier Athletic Conference (WHAC), but she wouldn’t have the team success she’s experienced with the Blue Devils. None of the other local WHAC schools, Concordia, Rochester College, Madonna, or Michigan-Dearborn, can claim to had been nationally ranked and reached the national tournament two years ago and be currently ranked 20th, like Lawrence Tech can.
“It’s a rewarding feeling being surrounded by girls who are strongly committed and dedicated to our program,” Ruster said. “We are a very talented group of girls which makes things competitive, fun and helps me improve my game every single day. I would rather be on a team that is successful and play less, than be on a team who is losing and play the entire game. It’s an amazing experience, and I wouldn’t trade any of my teammates for the world!”
Ruster has played with all four players who reached one thousand career points in program history, Hali Butler (’16), Allison Kitchen (’17), and current teammates, Buckingham, a junior and senior Hayley Walkowski.
“I have played with Hayley my entire career and it has been an amazing experience playing with her,” Ruster said. “She is the most hardworking person I have ever met and she helped me get through my ACL injury.”
Ruster plans on using her final year of eligibility next year, but afterwards plans on pursuing her master’s in Human Resources at either Michigan State or Illinois.
“I plan to become a human resource manager for a corporation and then eventually work my way up to become the director or vice president of human resources,” Ruster said.
Ruster could very well add more national tournament appearance to her resume before then.