Jan. 30, 2014
FAYETTEVILLE, NC - As she stepped onto the team bus and prepared for the 90-minute ride to Pikeville, NC, and a game against Winston-Salem State last week, Fayetteville State's Akysia Resper lugged with her a thick green book, weighing probably three or four pounds.
The book was not full of scouting reports or statistics or basketball historical data. Nope, the inside was instead loaded with test preparation questions for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), which is coming whether the senior point guard likes it or not.
"I haven't studied as much as I've really liked to, but either way, February 8 I have to take it," Resper said. "I'm just trying to study as much as I can."
Resper said she studies from the time she wakes up in the morning until she goes to bed at night, with a Monday-Wednesday-Friday class load and daily basketball duties serving as required study breaks in between. It's the life of a student-athlete, with Resper having to balance everything while playing the sport she loves.
Even on test day, she'll serve double-duty, taking the LSAT in the morning before driving to Charlotte for a 5:30 pm tip-off against Johnson C. Smith.
The Concord, NC, native wants to be a judge after her playing days are over, though, and she isn't going to allow a tough schedule to get in the way. She said it's a job she's long been interested in.
"I've always been interested in history, government and how things work," she said.
In the meantime, Resper is one of the key cogs of a Fayetteville State team that is on a four-game winning streak, sits 3-0 in Southern Division play and figures to be a contender for a CIAA championship in Charlotte come March 1.
Resper is in the top three in the CIAA in both steals per game (3.2) and assists per game (3.7) while pulling in a respectable 4.2 rebounds per contest and scoring 8.7 points per game.
"She is the calming force for the team," Lady Broncos coach Eva Patterson-Heath said. "She brings an element of point guard experience that we certainly need."
Ah, that experience. The former Presbyterian College student-athlete is one of just two Lady Broncos who saw 10 minutes per game of playing time and played at least five games last season. She started 28 games, while the rest of the current roster made a collective six starts for FSU a year ago.
So, by virtue of the team's massive changes, Resper has stepped up as one of the team's leaders. As she puts it, "I really didn't have a choice."
Despite the fact that she carries with her a soft-spoken demeanor, Resper is the spark plug to this team. One assistant coach said, "As she goes, the team goes." Thus far, the play on the floor has embodied that.
Resper's done several things well, and the new pieces to the team - Deja Middleton (who returned to the team after a three-year absence from the game, Amber Calvin (one of the top scorers in the conference), De' Aira Smith (one of the conference's top freshmen) and others- have responded.
FSU is tied atop the Southern Division and it appears two upcoming games against Shaw could make the difference in winning a regular-season title.
"I think we're all just committed to winning," Resper said. "I think now everybody understands their role, what's expected of them. It's made it a lot easier."
Resper takes more pride in her defense than anything else she does on the basketball court. It's something Patterson-Heath noticed when she recruited her in high school, before Resper initially chose Presbyterian.
"Akysia is very quiet and analytical and she's always watching," Patterson-Heath said. "She anticipates. When the ball is reversed, she may give the illusion that the ball is over there and then she's there to intercept the ball. Her on-ball defense is something she hangs her hat on, as well. She takes pride in on-ball defense."
As the season gets deeper and deeper into conference play, Resper figures to continue to be that defensive mastermind, no matter what other tasks she must balance along the way.
"You always make time for what you want to make time for," she said.