This story appears in FCA Magazine’s September/October 2017 issue. Subscribe today!
Alex Harden Born:
May 27, 1993 Hometown:
Witchita State Height:
• 2015 Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year
• Wichita State’s all-time leading scorer
• Selected 18th overall in the 2015 WNBA Draft by the Phoenix Mercury
“The tongue can bring death or life …” – Proverbs 18:21
Considering my professional career, it might come as a surprise that most of my favorite childhood memories didn’t occur inside the gym; they actually were outside at the track. My tight-knit family in Springfield, Illinois, spent a lot of time together at the track, traveling from one meet to another to watch my older sister compete.
Ashley is seven years older than me, so she’s always been my greatest source of inspiration. I wanted to be a great athlete just like her, so I started participating in track and field and playing basketball at just six years old.
I loved track and field and have a ton of great memories from it. But no matter how much success I experienced—including four consecutive state titles in the long jump and two straight in the triple jump—I always had a different love for basketball. There was just something special about being on the court with my teammates, and I always dreamed about doing it professionally in the WNBA.
Those dreams were fostered by my loving parents. They cared and provided for my sister and me, teaching us that anything was possible through Christ. Sports were special to our family, but my parents modeled to us that our faith came before everything else.
That was no clearer than in our constant involvement in our church. We had a great children’s ministry where we learned the Bible through fun games and activities. We were able to understand the Bible’s teachings while enjoying it.
As I got older, my mom made a rule: For every activity we committed to outside of church, we would give God one more. As a three-sport athlete, that meant four church activities. I was a Sunday School teacher for the younger kids, sang in the choir, served as an usher, and was also a praise dancer.
Our immersion in the church and the lessons we learned about the Lord established the solid foundation upon which my faith was built. That was essential when I left home to attend college and play basketball at Wichita State University.
Being a college athlete can be mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting. But I was able to persevere through the difficult times because of my firmly established faith, with the help and encouragement of my teammates. Being as close as we were, we were able to support one another through any struggles. The relationships formed there continue to be some of the strongest I’ll ever have in my life.
While gaining new “sisters” through the game, I also experienced a lot of success on the court, becoming Wichita State’s all-time scoring leader. Soon my dreams of playing professionally came to fruition.
Even though I’d dreamed about it and envisioned the moment for years, it was still a bit of a shock to hear my name called when the Phoenix Mercury made me the 18th overall pick in the 2015 WNBA Draft. That moment meant so much to me. It was a true blessing to know that a team saw my abilities and wanted me to represent them.
When I walked into my first training camp, I had to brush aside the feelings of being starstruck as I played alongside some of the greatest players in the game. Just months earlier, icons like Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner had led the Mercury to the 2014 WNBA Championship. I had watched some of these women play for what felt like my entire life. I had to remind myself that I belonged right there with them.
In the years since then, I’ve learned that my faith will always keep me grounded. No matter how I perform, I know Whose I am, who I am, and how I have to represent Christ at all times, being a light unto the world and displaying to others what Jesus has shown me.
Developing a relationship with Christ is an ever-evolving process. It’s opening up to Him as your Father, not as some omnipotent “thing in the sky.” It’s a very intimate connection that requires time, energy and effort, all of which I purposefully invest in Him so I can grow closer to Him.
God has given me this platform as a way to help others and give back. Ultimately, I want to be an example for others to look to and say that if she can do it, I can too.
Photos courtesy of Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images