Home Lacrosse News Alex Slusher Focuses On Lacrosse and More

Alex Slusher Focuses On Lacrosse and More

by Mike Loveday
Alex Slusher from Oregon Episcopal. Photo courtesy Oregon Episcopal Athletics
from . Photo courtesy Athletics

from (Ore.) appears to be the next player in line to make lacrosse fans notice the sport in the Pacific Northwest. He's a two-time US Lacrosse All-American and First Team All-State selection, committed to Princeton and could become one of the state's all-time leading scorers.

But for all his lacrosse prowess and accolades, it might be his dedication to the sport and helping others that secures his legacy.

Getting Started

Slusher's father and grandfather worked at Nike, so he was around athletics from an early age. Growing up in Oregon, lacrosse was not the most popular sport and not on Slusher's radar.

"I never had heard of it growing up. I was a massive basketball and football fan, but lacrosse isn't as big here," Slusher said. "A buddy of mine in 4th grade showed me his lacrosse pads, and I was like, "This looks more like football."

The 5-foot-9 Slusher played travel basketball with an AAU team, but he knew there were limitations to his hoop dreams.

"You got to be 6-1 to 6-2 to really have a shot if you're going to play at a high level," Slusher said.

Slusher was playing lacrosse at the time, but with his AAU schedule, the sport was not his main focus. His future changed with the help of a local player.

Reed Zabel, who went on to play at UC Santa Barbara, helped shape Slusher's path. Zabel was a senior at Lincoln (Ore.) when Slusher was in 7th grade.

"He started working me out and teaching me how to play lacrosse. I really worshiped this kid. I thought he was really cool," Slusher said. "That's when I started to realize that my future was going to be in the sport where you could be 5-8 or 5-9 and still be good."

Focus

Alex Slusher from Oregon Episcopal. Photo courtesy Oregon Episcopal Athletics

from . Photo courtesy Athletics

It was then that Slusher's focus changed to lacrosse in 7th grade. By 2016 he was already verbally committed to the admissions process at Princeton. He attributes his rapid rise from dabbling in the sport to being considered one of the best freshman on the West Coast to his athletic background.

"I think playing basketball and football from a young age helped me a ton because of a lot of natural sports instincts. And really just hard work," Slusher said. "Lacrosse is one of those games I feel where your skills can be directly correlated to how much time you put in and so it's about putting in those extra hours.

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More Than Lacrosse

Despite focusing on lacrosse for only the last two years and located as far away from the hotbeds of recruiting as a player can get, Slusher was determined.

He arrived at Oregon Episcopal in 2016 with a plan.

"I always feel I have to represent the state when I’m back East. If I don’t play well, then what are people going to think about Oregon lacrosse."

He basically lived in airports on weekends, traveling to-and-from the East Coast attending recruiting events and garnering the attention of college coaches.

"It was crazy. I missed six of the first eight Fridays. Playing in Oregon you have to fly back east for all the tournaments," Slusher said. "That freshman fall was probably the most hectic I've ever had."

Even though he was working to gain the attention of college coaches, Slusher knew the odds.

"Being from Oregon, I was always told that it was going to be a disadvantage coming from a state where people don’t really play or it’s not traditionally known," Slusher said. "It gave me a chip on my shoulder at some of those recruiting events because I was that kid from Oregon. People here on the East Coast would be like, “Oh, you’re from Oregon?” I think in some ways, it helped me because when people are looking at their sheet and it got four kids from Baltimore, and then they say like, 'Oh, these kids are from Portland, Oregon. Let me check them out.'"

There was also pressure on Slusher to play well. Not only to ensure college coaches noticed but to represent his state.

"I always feel I have to represent the state when I’m back East. If I don’t play well, then what are people going to think about Oregon lacrosse."

During the time, Oregon Episcopal Head Coach learned what kind of player he had. Sullivan told Slusher that he was required to complete all his schoolwork and inform his teachers what he was doing. Sullivan checked on his progress by meeting with the teachers.

"I met with his history teacher because then I didn't know the type of person Alex was and wanted to follow up and make sure he was doing all his work," Sullivan said. "His teacher told me what a model student he was and that he went out of his way to help some of the students in the class that were struggling a bit. He is just a good kid."

"He used to text me photos of him in the airport with ice on his knees to show me he was doing his homework," Sullivan added.

In addition to his freshman exploits of helping out classmates in history class, Slusher has been an advocate for helping grow lacrosse at Oregon Episcopal.

"He talked some freshman who'd never played lacrosse before into trying out for the team," Sullivan said. "During the first practice, before anyone else was out on the field, Alex was out there helping them."

Sacrifice

Alex Slusher from Oregon Episcopal (Ore.). Photo by Mike Loveday

Alex Slusher from Oregon Episcopal (Ore.). Photo by Mike Loveday

Slusher initially thought he was making a sacrifice when he chose to attend Oregon Episcopal. While the school has always been among the state's best, they had not won a state championship since 2009.

"When Alex got here I recognized how talented he was. I told him that we were going to need him to be a leader or that he could have a miserable four years," Sullivan said. "He's the kind of player that can make everyone around him better and he took on that role. We've never had a sophomore captain, and he's been a three-year captain."

"I actually chose to go to OES, which is 300-person school and they hadn't won in something like 10 years," Slusher said. "I thought I was choosing to go to the better academic school and sacrificing some lacrosse."

The Aardvarks were coming off a 2015 season in which they reached the Elite 8 and finished 13-6. The team had only made one Final Four from 2014 to 2016.

With Slusher added to the lineup, OES was an Elite 8 team once again in 2016 after finishing 14-4. The freshman put 48 goals and 18 assists en route to earning All-State Honorable Mention honors.

The Aardvarks and Slusher made the leap in 2017.

Slusher scored 89 points on 67 goals and 22 assists, helping OES to the state championship. He earned US Lacrosse All-American and First Team All-State honors. Oregon Episcopal finished 17-1 to win its first title since 2009.

Both OES and Slusher repeated the feats in 2018. Slusher scored 90 points on 58 goals and 32 assists as the Aardvarks finished 17-2.

"People thought we were done being good at lacrosse because they were really good when it first started and then as they got bigger, we've gotten worse," Slusher said. "Winning that first one was so sweet. There's nothing better than winning."

Final Games

Oregon Episcopal is 12-4 this season and earned the No. 7 seed in the state playoffs. The team finished 6-0 in the Columbia Conference and earned a first-round playoff bye. They face the winner of West Salem/Canby on May 21.

Slusher and OES have four possible games left and look to become the first team since Lincoln (Ore.) to win three-straight titles. Lincoln won three from 2010 to 2012.

Slusher has 78 points heading into the playoffs with a career total of 323. The senior has 209 goals, becoming the third player that's been reported to LaxRecords to score at least 200 in Oregon history. John Duffy and Sam Handley from Jesuit (Ore.) are the others.

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