The 6’4” Arts fourth-year starting centre of the Martlet basketball squad bounds into the room eager to talk about her team. Though a bona fide Canadian collegiate basketball superstar in her own right, Alex Kiss-Rusk is one of the least individualistic, most team-oriented athletes on campus. As she begins what could be her final semester with the Martlets, she reflects on her years at McGill and how she has grown into the leader of the Martlets, both on and off the court.
“I’m captain this year,” Kiss-Rusk said. “We lost three key leaders off the court […] last year […] so that was different. I’ve been here for four years and I never had to worry about anything other than showing up to practices and games. [This year,] it’s been different, but it’s been fun.”
Former captain Miriam Sylla graduated last spring, leading Kiss-Rusk to play an expanded role this year.
“[Sylla] was obviously an amazing player and also a big personality,” Kiss-Rusk said. “We share the responsibility a lot more [now with Sylla gone], but certainly, because I’m the post, it definitely falls on me a lot more.”
Kiss-Rusk doesn’t shy away from the extra responsibility. Despite being a Beaconsfield, Quebec native, She played her first year at Virginia Tech and knows how tough it can be for young players living away from home for the first time to balance an academic workload, athletics, and a new lifestyle. Her experience places her in a position to assist the next generation of Martlets trying to adjust to McGill.
“It’s a bit of a shellshock in terms of school load and basketball and all these things, especially if you’re moving away from home,” Kiss-Rusk said. “We got into that on our team a bit too, where some girls didn’t know how to handle it.”
For Kiss-Rusk, leaving the NCAA to become a Martlet could have been an intimidating experience considering both her parents played basketball at McGill. Instead, she enjoys playing near home and having her parents in the stands each game.
“It’s no pressure,” Kiss-Rusk said. “I think the biggest difference playing here is that my parents can come to all my games [.…] Having them here able to support me […] because they live 10 minutes away, is really fun.”
Combining responsibility with fun is Kiss-Rusk’s mandate. In her final year, she has become more aware on the court and a liaison off the court between her teammates and the coaching staff.
“[As a leader] you have to deal with the things that you thought happened by themselves,” Kiss-Rusk said. “They don’t happen by themselves. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes, a lot of conversations, a lot of video. It has opened my eyes.”
The extra time put into her sport has manifested itself in Kiss-Rusk’s stellar performance this season, leading the team with 12.4 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. Nationally, she is one of the most dominant post players in the country. Her success has had a major impact on the team and has the Martlets consistently ranked among Canada’s elite women’s basketball programs. She has thrived while playing for McGill and whether or not she graduates from the team next year–she does have one more year of eligibility–she is hoping to keep a foot rooted in the game.
“Being involved in basketball […] is going to be important to me when I move on,” Kiss-Rusk said. “Just staying involved in team things.”
Who’s your favourite Redmen basketball player?
Most bingeable show on Netflix?
Breaking Bad. I’ve seen it three times.
Favourite restaurant in Montreal?
It would have been Altos! But that feels tragic to say.