By Joe Smillie, Forum Editor
Former Spartan hoop star Alexa Justus is the newest golden girl in Forks.
The 2009 Forks grad returned home last week with a gold medal she earned playing off guard for Team USA in the 2013 Deaflympics in Sofia, Bulgaria.
“I feel amazing and exhilarated knowing I was playing for my own country,” Justus said in an interview with the Forum after returning to Forks from the Deaflympics Aug. 6.
When asked what her best move was during the games, she said it happened before she even left the country.
“My best move was making the team, getting to represent my country in my favorite sport and bringing home the gold medal for the USA,” she said in a text message interview.
Justus starred for Forks during her days of high school ball, being named Most Valuable Player of the Evergreen League her senior year.
Justus’ medal adds to the line of one of the royal families of Forks basketball.
Her father Scott played on the boys team which ran to the state A tournament in 1983 and coached the school’s basketball team for 11 years, in addition to coaching softball. Mother Shannon also was a sharpshooter for the Forks High girls team in her day. Brother Jordan was league MVP in 2006.
That legacy, growing up in the gym with her family, instilled in Alexa a passion for the game.
“I’ve played since second grade. Basketball is my true passion sport,” she said.
She starred as an off guard on Team USA during its gold medal run, earning praise for her tight defense.
“I am a much better defensive player,” she said.
The USA team took gold with an 81-57 win over Ukraine in the medal round.
“The Ukraine team is very physical,” she said.
Justus stuffed the stat sheet with a line of 20 points, six rebounds, four assists and four steals in an elimination round 109-24 win over China.
The team blew through Italy, Ukraine, China and Belarus in pool play. It then topped Japan 90-25 in the quarterfinals and earned a spot in the medal game by topping Greece 66-51.
Scott stayed up through the night to stream video of Alexa’s Olympic games from Bulgaria.
“I got to watch the opening ceremonies,” Scott said. “That was pretty emotional for me.”
“Some of us had to work, so we couldn’t watch that much,” Shannon said.
A proud papa, Scott praise his daughter for her dedication to the game and her determination to become a great player despite her hearing obstacle.
“She’s gone through the challenge of being the only deaf kid in school or on the team,” Scott said. “And she just kept working to get better and better.”
Alexa’s play earned her a spot on the junior college team at South Puget Sound Community College in Olympia.
After a year and a half, she transferred to Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., the world’s only university with programs specifically designed for the deaf.
She started on the bench, but said she put in extra effort during practice to earn a starting spot within a few games.
Playing on hearing teams before joining the deaf squad, which earned postseason honors this year, picked up Alexa’s game, she said.
“Playing on hearing teams first made me better,” she said. “It is very different playing with a deaf team.On my hearing team, I had to rely on an interpreter to inform me what to do. On my deaf team, my coach signs.”
She and three other starters from the Gallaudet team were picked by coaches Jimmy DeStefano and Laura Edwards for the Olympic team.
Communicating with teammates is easier on a deaf team, she said, as everyone on the court also uses sign language.
“Sometimes we talk crap too,” she said.
She is soon to head back to D.C. to start classes again at Gallaudet.