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May 5, 2010

Rossi stands out as a leader in his community

Though many critics have cited the disappearance of the true "student-athlete" in today's day and age, chances are, most of them have never met young men like Alex Rossi.

The 6-foot-5, 190-pound small forward out of Winnetka (Ill.) New Trier, apart from being a deadly-accurate shooter, is also an exemplary citizen, off the court.

This past weekend, Rossi and three other Cal signees participated in the High School Academic All-American Classic, where the 30 participating players were selected based on grade-point average, SAT/ACT scores, the strength of their high school curriculum, their college selection, community service, extra-curricular activities and playing ability.

Rossi has them all in spades. Not only is he attending-as Yahoo! Sports scribe Mike Silver so understatedly calls it-God's University, but he notched a 23 on his ACT, carries a sparkling 3.93 GPA and, with the extra-curriculars Rossi is involved in, it's surprising that he doesn't fight crime at night as a masked avenger.

"Oh, man, I've got a lot of extra-curriculars," Rossi chuckles sheepishly. Yeah. A lot. And he got an early start. During his sophomore year, he won the J. Kyle Braid Leadership Award-one of the two New Trier students out of 5,000 to receive the honor.

"Two kids are chosen each year to go to the J. Kyle Braid Leadership Ranch out in Colorado, and I went out there my sophomore year," he says. "We go through a week of leadership training, with two hours in the classroom and then we'd go out and practice doing trust tests and stuff, all sorts of different stuff like whitewater rafting and ropes courses."

After that, Rossi entered into a two-year commitment with his school to be an instructor for Student Athletic Leadership Training.

"I teach the kids that are supposed to be captains their senior year," says Rossi. "I teach them certain leadership skills, and mostly facilitate discussions about what's going on within their teams and problems, and try to help them work things out. And then, I talk to the freshman class every year, all the kids who are going into athletics. I talk to them."

But Rossi isn't just about improving the citizenship of his fellow athletes, or becoming a leader solely on the hardwood. As a part of a program called TriShip, Rossi helps raise money for college-bound students at New Trier who can't afford books. This year, he helped raise $50,000. Beyond that, he also takes part in a program called Safe Rides.

"On the weekends, every other week or so, I'm a part of what's called Safe Rides, which is me and a few guys, we get together at this house and we have our own (phone) lines, and we drive home people that have been drinking," says Rossi, "because this one year, someone died because of drunk driving, and what we do is make sure that no one drives home drunk. We go from 10 PM to 2 AM and pick up kids and take them home."

There is no question that Rossi's sneakers are set on the right path, both on the court and off. And he's accomplished all of that largely because of basketball.

"I just want to give all the credit to my friend and coach Joe Lankford," Rossi says, "for teaching me and keeping me focused through both school and basketball."

The kid certainly has a bright future. If only he can somehow manage to stay out of trouble. Shouldn't be a problem.


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