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Alley Takes Advantage Of Second Chance With Nighthawks
Ezekiel Alley played in 20 games for Northwest Nazarene in 2019-20, averaging 16.3 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game to go with a .498 field goal percentage.
Ezekiel Alley played in 20 games for Northwest Nazarene in 2019-20, averaging 16.3 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game to go with a .498 field goal percentage.
Ezekiel Alley
Ezekiel Alley

Monday, December 21, 2020
by Kaho Akau, GNAC Media Relations Assistant

NAMPA, Idaho – Ezekiel Alley only needed one coach to believe in him. One coach to give him a second chance at playing college basketball. That coach was Northwest Nazarene’s Paul Rush.

A native of Tucson, Arizona, Alley was in the midst of his sophomore season at Fullerton College in California when his career went off track.

The Hornets were the No. 1 team in the California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) in 2018-19, winning their fourth state title and first since 2006. Alley, however, wasn’t in the stat sheets during the second half of the Hornets’ championship season.

Alley found himself in the starting lineup when the season opened. He was averaging 12.4 points per game over the course of 16 games, shooting 49 percent from the field and 41.2 percent from three-point range. Then seven minutes into a matchup against Irvine Valley College on Jan. 11, he was trying to make a defensive play when he felt something pop in his right leg.

A week later, he found out that he had a partially torn ACL.

“It was tough at first. I was having one of the best seasons that I’ve ever had and it ended so fast,” Alley said.

Because of the uncertainty of the injury, many of the coaches from the programs that were previously recruiting Alley stopped contacting him. He was discouraged at first but soon turned that frustration into motivation.

“All I could think about in therapy was proving them wrong,” he said. “It made me who I am today. Now that I am back to 100 percent, I can’t wait to show people what I can really do on the court.”

When Alley visited the Northwest Nazarene campus, Rush told him that the Nighthawks’ former point guard, Obi Megwa, also transferred to NNU after suffering a leg injury. But with the help of the Nighthawks’ athletic training staff, Megwa had a speedy recovery and finished his college career as a unanimous First Team All-GNAC selection in 2018-19.

There was something about being an underdog that lit a fire under Alley. Rush had a feeling Alley could make a comeback and have a similar storybook ending.

“Zeke was someone we were able to see play in high school and he left a strong first impression on us as a staff,” Rush said. “His quickness and tenacity really stood out along with his ability to see the floor and create plays as a passer. When we were evaluating him at Fullerton, we saw that his scoring ability really improved as well.”

At the time that Alley committed to the Nighthawks, though, he was only two months out of surgery. He still had to wait several months before he could even be cleared to run again, let alone play basketball. His future was blurry, but the confidence that Rush and the rest of the coaching staff had in him made it clear that Northwest Nazarene was the second chance he was looking for.

“They all showed me love on my visit,” Alley said. “I loved how they believed in me, even with my injury. Coach Rush just told me to keep rehabbing and getting my leg stronger and to know that they’ll have my back every step of the way.”

During his first season in a Nighthawks jersey, Alley had to do something that he wasn’t accustomed to. He had to come off the bench.

Still somewhat fresh off of his knee injury, he had to take a step back and become the team’s sixth man. Embracing the new role wasn’t easy but he continued to stay positive and play hard, regardless of the situation, because his teammates needed him.

“It bothered me sometimes but I just stayed positive and kept telling myself that I needed to make the best of it,” he said. “If it was better for the team then that was all that mattered.”

Despite being a reserve player, Alley was Northwest Nazarene’s leading scorer in 2019-20, ranking fifth in the conference with 16.3 points per game. He went on to earn Second Team All-GNAC honors as the Nighthawks claimed the No. 4 seed in the GNAC Championships with a 12-8 conference mark (15-11 overall).

“Coming off the injury, his quickness was definitely limited early in the season,” Rush said. “The more comfortable he became and the more strength he was able to get in his leg, the better he played. We are excited for him to step into a big role for us this year and be fully healthy as well.”

Now a senior, Alley looks to build on his recent success and continue to prove that he belongs.

Alley describes himself as a selfless teammate but a dog on the court. Even though he wasn’t in the starting lineup as a junior, his teammates still looked to him for guidance. He does whatever he’s asked to help the team win games and leads by example to keep the energy level up.

In his eyes, no one on the court is a harder worker than he is. He’s shown that time after time. What has made Northwest Nazarene a perfect fit for him is that he is surrounded by players with the same bulldog spirit.

“This team means a lot to me,” Alley said. “There are a lot of selfless guys on this team that love to get after it and compete every day.”

Alley is unsure of what his future has in store for him, but he is already preparing to play professional basketball overseas after his time at Northwest Nazarene. When his playing days are over, he plans to stay involved in the basketball community and become a coach or mentor for the next generation of basketball players.

No matter what route he decides to take, as long as he is in control of his own destiny, he’ll be just fine.

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