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Q&A with former Wichita State basketball star Alex Harden

Alex Harden earned Associated Press honorable mention All-American honors and Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year honors in 2015. She is WSU’s career scoring leader with 1,708 points.
Alex Harden earned Associated Press honorable mention All-American honors and Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year honors in 2015. She is WSU’s career scoring leader with 1,708 points. The Wichita Eagle

Former Wichita State women’s basketball star Alex Harden is holding a basketball camp on Friday and Saturday at the Wichita Sports Forum, open to boys and girls ages 7-18. For more information visit hardenacademy.com. Cost is $40.

Harden, Wichita State’s career scoring leader, lives in Phoenix for the summer. She is rehabbing from shoulder surgery that derailed her third season with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury. She is also considering a future in medicine.

Harden will play for Ramat Hasharon Electra in Israel this winter. She averaged 17.2 points for Hapoel Zichron in Israel last season.

Q: How is your recovery from surgery to repair a torn labrum in your right shoulder going?

Harden: I’m two months post-surgery, so I’m getting better, getting all the range of motion. I’m starting to get back on the court a little bit, get some more conditioning in. I’m doing ball-handling and using my left hand more. I’m not really full-on with my right yet.

Q: What’s the hardest thing about rehab?

Harden: There’s so many things that you don’t realize your shoulder was there for, like getting dressed, doing my hair. You don’t have the range of motion your shoulder needs. The range of motion is probably the hardest work I’ve done so far.

Q: What’s your daily routine?

Harden: I get up and get breakfast around 7-ish. I do a 9 a.m. rehab. Depending on the day, I go shadow at hospital, which is normally the later half of the week, or I go shadow some other interest in my life, like the Internet or understanding marketing a little better. All my rehab is done at the (Phoenix) Mercury facilities.

Now that basketball is kind of hold, I get a chance to figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life. Of course, you can’t account for injuries or you can’t account for the longevity of the sport. It opened my eyes to what reality could be, understanding what I could be doing on a daily basis. You have to figure it out based on what you like and what your abilities are. I really like working with patients. I really enjoy that personal interaction … seeing them getting better. I love to watch people get better.

Q: Do you attend Mercury games while you’re rehabbing?

Harden: I’m around the team a lot. I go to most of the home games, as long as I’m not working.

Q: Before the injury, did you feel optimistic about your role with the Mercury?

Harden: I had a fairly good off-season, so my confidence was at an all-time high. I couldn’t guarantee minutes or position or anything like that, but I was confident in myself. I thought I was going to be a big part of the rotation.

A: You will play for Ramat Hasharon Electra in Israel this winter. How soon will you be healthy enough to play?

Harden: I leave the end of September. My 100-percent clear-up date, active to play, is a few weeks after I get there. But it will be good to learn the plays, get with the team and I’ll have no restrictions at this point. It depends on my endurance. Game shape is very different from doing all the things outside of play.

Q: How do you describe the experience of playing overseas?

Harden: It’s exploring and understanding the culture changes. And really getting a chance to enjoy it. Trying to learn the language. Seeing everything, like the Dead Sea, the Prayer Wall in Jerusalem. The older I’ve gotten the more I have a wider taste palette. We went overseas my freshman year … to Italy and I wasn’t ready to eat everything. My taste buds weren’t ready for all of it. It was too healthy. There was a lot going on.

Now I can try a little bit of everything and I really enjoy all of their foods. It’s every clean eating, and you can eat a lot more because it is so clean. My favorite thing that we had at every one of our team dinners is a salad combination, but it has no lettuce. It’s all cucumbers, tomatoes, lemon juice and salt and pepper. That’s it. I love it.

Q: What is the difference between playing overseas and playing in the WNBA?

Harden: The WNBA has the best talent, by far. But, overseas, it allows you to test out different things. It’s a little less physical. It’s more of a free-flowing (game), made for scorers and shooters. It allows me to fill out every aspect. I get to play multiple positions. I have more leeway. In most cases, you get more playing time. So it allows me to try out things, shoot shots I wouldn’t shoot in the (WNBA) … that kind of balance of figuring out what you can and can’t do.

Q: What do you want kids to take from your camp?

Harden: A better basis of the fundamentals. They see all the flashy things and they want to do that. I think if you have a base, you can always build flash. When you have flash and no base, you can’t really adapt and you max out quicker. All the flash moves have a breakdown to the basics. And I want them to have fun. Enjoy their time with other kids, learning how to play with other people. Play with what you have. If you have a shooter, find a way to get them shots.

Paul Suellentrop: 316-269-6760, @paulsuellentrop

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