Inside HOKIE SPORTS | Vol. 13 No. 1 | August 2020 27 approval to leave. Some players probably cringe at such restrictions, but Alexander- Walker likes basketball and being back on the court, so he viewed the sacrifice as minimal. “It’s been fun,” he said. “It takes you back to being a kid on AAU trips in hotels, just chillin’. The food has been great. The restaurant’s good. My teammates are cool. You really get to bond. You’ve got the players’ lounge, all kinds of snacks. I’m playing basketball and chillin’. You can’t ask for anything more.” Alexander-Walker’s return to the court went successfully, as he scored 14 points in the Pelicans’ scrimmage win over Brooklyn on July 22. Three days later, he poured in 21 points and had five assists in New Orleans’ victory over Denver. He played much in the way he played last summer when he averaged 24.3 points, 6.0 assists and 4.8 rebounds per game playing in the NBA Summer League. Arguably, his best game of the season came in the Pelicans’ final regular-season game—the team missed on earning a spot in the playoffs. Alexander-Walker got the start and scored a career-high 29 points in the Pelicans’ 133-127 loss to Orlando. He hit 11 of 18 from the floor, including a couple of 3-pointers, and he also dished out seven assists. It marked a great ending to an up-and-down regular season for Alexander-Walker. He averaged just 5.1 points, 1.8 assists, and 1.8 rebounds per game in 46 games. Obviously, Alexander-Walker faced each team’s best night in and night out, but he also went through the traditional rookie growing pains. He hopes those are behind him. “It’s [being in the NBA] definitely not what I expected, and no matter what, it’s not going to be,” he said. “The best thing I could say to somebody is to try your best to be consistent every day. It is a rollercoaster ride, and it’s a long season as well. You can’t dwell on things. You have to be able to move forward and be professional. Stick to a routine and come to work every day. Just be that same person. “That’s one of the biggest adjustments that I’ve learned with myself. Just remaining confident and focus on what’s important. As a young guy, you want to be good and improve yourself so much that you tend to rush things instead of letting it come.” Alexander-Walker also has learned patience. He fractured his right (shooting) wrist in a practice in early March and missed several games before the pandemic delayed the NBA season. He went to Los Angeles, where he stayed with family and friends during the pandemic, but he wasn’t able to take full advantage of the extra time to work on his game because of his injured wrist. He avoided surgery, and he spent a lot of time doing rehab exercises. He spent the remainder of his time doing conditioning to stay in shape and drills with his left hand. He also kept close tabs on his family in Toronto, his hometown. “Enjoy life,” he said when asked what the time away from basketball during the pandemic taught him. “With every going on, you feel like, ‘What’s happening with the world?’ You just kind of want to live every day like it’s your last—just not knowing who has what and being in contact with so many people. Being so far away from my family, it’s just making sure that everyone’s good, and you really focus on what’s important in life and what matters.” Rest assured, Virginia Tech isn’t far from his thoughts either. He spent two seasons in Blacksburg and started all 67 games in which he played, developing unbreakable relationships with his teammates, then-head coach Buzz Williams and the rest of the coaching staff. But Virginia Tech was more than just about basketball for him. It was about the people—something most athletes say when they leave campus for the next step in their careers. “A bunch,” Alexander-Walker said when asked how much he missed Virginia Tech. “I tell everybody I talk to about it. I love Virginia Tech. I love Blacksburg. It was hard for me to leave. So many strong, solid, real relationships were built there, and I’m thankful for every minute of it. I definitely look forward to coming back in the future as much as I can.” For sure, that door always will be open — and he’ll always be welcome. IHS extra