Ballin' for Books: Alverson excels on court, in classroom
Dec. 7, 2011
By Jack Smith
"Ballin' for Books" is a fitting name for a new community service project soon to be launched by Blanche Alverson, the sharp-shooting Auburn junior from Andalusia.
After all, when she's not knocking down three pointers at Auburn Arena, Alverson can usually be found in a chemistry lab, or with her nose buried in books. Auburn's leading returning scorer from a year ago, Alverson also has some impressive statistics in the classroom.
She maintains a 3.7 overall GPA in pre-med and has designs on becoming a pediatrician, but she has plenty of other goals for the rest of her time at Auburn. Team goals--including making the NCAA tournament--take precedence over individual honors. Yet Alverson hopes to become an Academic All-American in the process.
"If I can do that, obviously that's good for the team," Alverson said. "If I'm playing well that will help us get some W's and we will hopefully make the tournament."
While Alverson does her part on the hardwood, she's also making her mark in an Auburn chemistry lab. She has spent countless hours researching a protein in the human eye under the direction of Dr. Michael Squillacote, an organic chemistry professor at Auburn.
This past summer, when she wasn't playing pick-up games or working basketball camps, Alverson was laboring in the lab five or six hours a day. She assisted a doctoral student in trying to determine how the human eye sees color. The scientific explanation is complicated, but the ultimate goal is simple.
"Years from now they will be able to develop synthetic eyes based in part on the research we are doing," Alverson said.
In between early-morning workouts, biochemistry and microbiology classes and late-night study sessions, Alverson also somehow finds the time to read to children at the local Boys & Girls Club.
That experience, and a conversation with her mother, who teaches special needs children, spawned the idea for "Ballin' for Books."
"My mom works at a special needs Pre-K, and she told me that one of the needs they have is books," Alverson said. "One of the things that really hit home to me is there are some communities around here that don't even have libraries."
That's why Alverson started discussing her idea for a book drive with the Auburn women's basketball staff. They hope to launch their first book drive at a home game in early 2012, once conference play starts.
"We're in the beginning with it but we want to make kids get excited about reading and we want to provide books for those who need them. I want to make a difference. We do a lot of community service but there wasn't any one thing that I have really taken ahold of and been consistently involved with until now."
Alverson, a highly regarded prospect while playing in Andalusia and then in Buford, Ga., where her mother teaches, said she strongly considered other schools farther from home for her basketball career. But all signs kept leading her back to Auburn.
She is a fourth-generation Auburn student who grew up cheering for the Tigers. Her great-grandfather even played baseball at Auburn. Once she decided to sign with Auburn, her grandparents moved to town so they could watch her play.
Coming to Auburn is a decision she doesn't regret.
"It means so much to me to be able to play for a university that I grew up cheering for," she said. "It's all I've ever known. I love the coaching staff and all the players, and even though everybody always says it's like a family, it really is. Everyone is so supportive."
While Alverson has little time to spend with her social sorority, it warms her heart when sorority sisters show up for tip-off at Auburn Arena with hastily made "14" jerseys.
As for the team's goal of making the NCAA Tournament, Alverson is excited about the team's progress.
"We have more depth than we've ever had. It's fun because everybody gets involved, and that's good for team morale."
When her playing days are over, Alverson will be applying for medical school. She hopes to become a pediatrician or perhaps a pediatric orthopedic surgeon.
"I've decided working with kids is what I feel led to do," Alverson said. "We have camps and I love being around kids, and I have a little sister who is eight years younger than I am. Being around her and her friends is very enjoyable and I think I could really have an impact and have the kind of bedside manner that a pediatrician should have."
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