SUBSCRIBE NOW Just 99¢ for your first month

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Ustby's coming home has special incentive

University of North Carolina sophomore guard/forward Alyssa Ustby is eager to take on her home-state Gophers on Wednesday at Williams Arena.

Utsby,Alyssa.ap.625.jpg
Rochester Lourdes graduate Alyssa Ustby is a sophomore standout for the University of North Carolina. On Wednesday night, Ustby's Tar Heels play Minnesota at Williams Arena. Special to the Post Bulletin / University of North Carolina
JEFFREY A. CAMARATI
We are part of The Trust Project.

This is a matchup that Alyssa Ustby circled as soon as it came out.

The Rochester Lourdes graduate will be "home" on Wednesday, her University of North Carolina women’s basketball team set to take on the University of Minnesota at 8 p.m. at Williams Arena in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

North Carolina enters 6-0, Minnesota 6-3. Neither team is yet ranked, though the Tar Heels received votes in the most recent Associated Press national poll.

The game will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network, from the arena where Ustby's oustanding high school career ended. Lourdes was preparing to play in a Class AA girls basketball state tournament semifinal game at Williams Arena in March 2020, when the COVID pandemic swiftly began to shut down sports at all levels nationwide.

Ustby, a three-time All-State player and a 2020 Minnesota Miss Basketball finalist at Lourdes, finished her high school career as the Eagles' all-time leader in scoring (2,560 points) and rebounds (1,287). She also holds the girls basketball program record for points in a game (43) and the three-sport athlete (she also excelled in soccer and softball) earned 14 varsity letters.

ADVERTISEMENT

“It will be bittersweet coming home, because Minnesota is a school that I looked up to growing up,” said Ustby, who was recruited by the Gophers but ultimately chose North Carolina. “Getting the opportunity to play on that court will be great. It will kind of be the clashing of my two families, my Minnesota world clashing with my North Carolina world.”

The North Carolina world is one that takes precedent these days for Ustby, a 6-foot-1 ultra-athletic and strong sophomore who is already in her second year as a starter.

Ustby has fallen in love with what the Tar Heels have brewing, with that dominant 6-0 start and a togetherness that she says is unmistakable.

The Tar Heels and their coach, Courtney Banghart, have also fallen in love with Ustby and her game.

Ustby gave a taste of what she was capable of a year ago. Though she was the lowest-ranked player in an outstanding North Carolina recruiting class last year, she didn’t play like it.

Ustby averaged 9.9 points (fifth-best on the team), while shooting 50% from the field in 2020-21, and collected 5.7 rebounds per game (second-best on the team).

This season, she has taken things to another level. That starts with her rebounding. Ustby has nearly doubled last year’s totals, now grabbing nearly 11 boards per game.

“I take every bit of the game as a challenge,” Ustby said. “If someone wants to jump with me to grab a rebound, they're going to have to be ready to fight me for it.”

ADVERTISEMENT

After a summer of intense conditioning, an already strong, quick and fast Ustby has increased all of those things.

“Over the summer, I worked really hard (while staying in North Carolina) with coaches and my teammates,” she said. “My teammates challenged me all summer to get better in all areas. I think I’ve made tremendous growth.”

Ustby’s statistics suggest as much. Besides averaging 10.7 rebounds, the guard/forward is also managing 14.8 points and nearly two steals and assists per game. And she’s been shooting the lights out, hitting 51% of her field-goal tries and making the only 3-pointers she’s tried.

Ustby believes more recognition will be coming North Carolina’s way as it shows what it can do against legitimate Power 5 teams, such as Minnesota’s.

Her faith in this Tar Heels team is sky high.

“We’re thriving and having so much fun,” Ustby said. “I love it (at North Carolina). It’s a special place to be. I think we just have to keep doing what we’ve been doing. We are connected, offensively and defensively. Over time, that is going to take us where we need to go.”

Related Topics: BASKETBALLALYSSA USTBYMINNESOTA
Pat has been a Post Bulletin sports reporter since 1994. He covers Rochester John Marshall football, as well as a variety of other southeastern Minnesota football teams. Among my other southeastern Minnesota high school beats are girls basketball, boys and girls tennis, boys and girls track and field, high school and American Legion baseball, volleyball, University of Minnesota sports (on occasion) and the Timberwolves (on occasion). Readers can reach Pat at 507-285-7723 or pruff@postbulletin.com.
What to read next
Century rode big performances from its sprinters and its jumpers en route to dominating the boys and girls All-City track-and-field meets.
A scoreboard of lacrosse games.
A scoreboard of softball games.
Scores of area high school games.