Connor Alexander was used to being first during his playing days at Tipton-Rosemark Academy.
He was the first baseball player to sign with a Division I school during early signing period. A two-sport standout at TRA, Alexander was usually the first to receive the ball from the inbound player in basketball and the coach’s first choice to pitch the big game.
Even teamwise Alexander experienced some firsts like when the 2014 Rebel Baseball team was the first win a Region championship in the school’s history.
Another first was added to Alexander’s legacy at TRA when he was voted the 2014 Millington Star Male Athlete of the Year. With that honor, Alexander became the first male athlete from TRA to win the award in its nine-year history.
“It feels pretty good because we’ve had a lot of great male athletes come through our school,” Alexander said. “To be the first one, it feels pretty big.”
Since the award’s inception TRA has featured multiple sport standouts like JT Moody, Tyler White, Dustin Whitlock and Connor’s older brother Cale to name a few. The younger Alexander used a combination of solid point guard play and dominating pitching with timely hitting to win this year’s honor.
Team success has an impact on voting as well and Alexander met that critique with the Rebel Basketball team finishing second in district and the TRA Baseball team reaching the Division II-A State championship game.
“In basketball we definitely exceeded everyone’s expectations for us,” Alexander said. “We’re a really small team and nobody really gave us a shot going into it. We ended up tying for second in the district. We ended up losing that tiebreaker to USJ. Nobody even expected us to play with them or St. George’s”
Before the hoops season started, area experts were fully aware of Matt “Moose” Moody. The interior force was a double-double machine on his way to scoring more than 1,000 points in his varsity career.
TRA Head Coach Jason Morgan knew he needed another scoring option to releive pressure off Moody.
“Coming into the season I thought of myself as the point guard trying to get Matt the ball,” Alexander recalled. “And they ended up double teaming him most of the year. So I had to pick up my scoring and help him with that. I had to take over that scoring role.
“Coach Morgan set with me and (Austin) Chambers, the other co-captain,” he added. “He told us he needed us to be leaders, not only on the court but off it. We needed to keep everyone’s heads into it.”
The captains keep the team together for a record 9-game winning streak during the season. That success set the table for the upcoming baseball season.
The Rebels won 34 games, a district title, Region championship and Sub-State series on the diamond. Alexander acknowledged he was the “Matt Moody” of the baseball team during preseason already signed to play college baseball at Memphis.
“The past years like 2012, everybody expected us to win State,” he said. “And we came up short, going 0-2. It felt good this year to get pass what everybody expected getting to the State championship game.
“It was a little tough because I always had to pitch the away games against the tougher crowd,” Alexander added. “There were different umpires. But I relied on my past experiences from my sophomore and junior years to help me get ready for that.”
Alexander said not winning the golden trophy was disappointing but the 2014 Rebel Baseball team is still had historic success.
“We really don’t have any big-time players as for D-I or like that,” he noted. “We have nine or 10 guys out there giving their all. We all came together to do what we needed to do to get there.”
Helping Connor reach his full potential as a student/athlete have been parents Cal and Kim. An additional motivating force in Connor’s life has been big brother Cale.
“Every since we were little, I would play on his teams my Dad coached,” Connor recalled. “He’s always been a role model for me. He helped me by playing catch in the yard or we shot baskets. He’s always been there.”
Cale was a standout catcher for the Rebels helping the team reach two State tournaments. He played basketball as well before heading to Christian Brothers University to play baseball. Before his little brother stepped foot off the TRA campus, he gave Connor some advice about college baseball.
“You’ve got to start back over from the bottom,” Connor said. “So you’ve got to know your role and build your way back up.
“In our signing class, I know we’ve got three or four really good pitchers,” he continued. “We have Colton from Brighton and a guy named Blake from George. They’re very good pitchers. So I know it’s going to be a battle to get up there.”
Colton Hathcock of Brighton was also a finalist for the Millington Star Athlete of the Year. But his future teammate beat him out for the 2014 honor. Alexander noted former Rebels like David Owen pitching at Arkansas State and countless other TRA alumni playing college sports proves the tiny school can play.
He said he’s glad to take his turn on the collegiate level with the destination of being Star Male Athlete of the Year.
“It feels pretty good because it’s weird for somebody from Rosemark to get all this stuff,” he said. “With Rosemark being such a small school, we’re competing against the Bartletts, the Germantowns, the Colliervilles and the Houstons.
“I hope my legacy is just somebody who worked hard, stayed quiet, and build their way up,” Alexander concluded. “Hopefully everyone can follow that.”
2006 Buck Wakefield Munford
2007 Joe Glass Brighton
2008 Mario Justice Millington
2009 Tausean Holmes Millington
2010 Demetre Jones Millington
2011 Alan Cross Millington
2012 Ricky Foster Brighton
2013 Antonio Webber Millington