Alex Cowling Puts History in Its Place

History could be made this year at Gersten Pavilion: Alex Cowling, senior guard-forward for the women’s basketball team, may become the all-time leading scorer in West Coast Conference women’s basketball history. And she is four rebounds short of becoming LMU’s all-time leading rebounder.

Ahead of her on the WCC scoring roster are only two players, both of Gonzaga: Heather Bowman (2006–10), with 2,165 points, and Courtney Vandersloot (2007–11) with 2,073.

Through more than three seasons, Cowling has been rewriting the LMU record books. Before her third campaign was complete, Cowling owned the LMU all-time leading scorer title. As of mid-January this year, she has notched 2,000 career points.

If there were a standard for accomplishments labeled “stunning,” Cowling’s LMU highlights would meet it:

Freshman year: WCC Newcomer of the Year; most points by an LMU freshman (401); team leader in offensive rebounds (98)

Through more than three seasons, Cowling has been rewriting the LMU record books. Before her third campaign was complete, Cowling owned the LMU all-time leading scorer title. 

Sophomore year: First Team All-WCC; set LMU single-season scoring record (526 points); team leader in rebounds (7.1 per game)

Junior year: First team All-WCC; broke her own LMU single-season record (666 points); scored in double figures in all 30 games.

Cowling comes from a family of competitors. Her father and a sister ran track for UC Berkeley, another sister played volleyball for UC Riverside. A younger sister is a highly recruited high school basketball player in the Bay Area. But the Cowling athletic heritage runs still deeper: Alex’s aunt is Karen (Gilbert) Kinnebrew ’84, a member of LMU’s first women’s basketball team to compete at the Division 1 level. Cowling isn’t first in her family to hold an LMU record. Kinnebrew had nine steals in a game once, a feat that remains unsurpassed.

At LMU, Cowling’s primary role is scoring points. She says she isn’t the most athletic or naturally gifted player. But she’s worked hard on her shot, especially to develop a faster release and extend her range. Now her reputation precedes her. She’s learned what all scorers learn: Every team gears their defense against them. That’s a challenge Cowling loves: “when you are known as a scorer, and you still can score.”

Although point leaders usually get the headlines, Cowling says team success is rooted in roles. She envies the playmaking of teammate junior Hazel Ramirez, the basketball IQ of sophomore Danielle Pruitt and the athleticism of sophomore Emily Ben-Jumbo. Roles are the ingredients of success, she says.

“For the casual fan,” Cowling says, “a scorer is entertaining. But there has to be someone getting 10 or more rebounds a game, someone else getting three steals a game, and someone containing an opposing player, because you’re not going to win if you don’t.”

Because she believes wins are the ultimate reward, Cowling felt it a bittersweet moment when she set the LMU scoring record last season in a loss to Saint Mary’s.

“People congratulated me after the game for the record,” she recalls, “but I really wanted that win. We struggled to get wins last year. There were games when I put up the points, but I wanted scoring that would lead us to wins, not just scoring for the sake of scoring.”

Cowling’s path will probably put her on Heather Bowman’s heels near season’s end. If she takes the conference title, the significance of the achievement won’t be lost on her. But what will it mean to her?

“It will depend on our season, on whether we reach our goals,” Cowling says. “If I can help lead our team to reaching its potential through scoring, that would be amazing.”