Newman overcomes adversity to boost Balers

San Benito's Alyssa Newman gets the rebound from Christopher's Haley Romero during their Feb. 10 game at Christopher.

Alyssa Newman knows she can’t control the unexpected punches life throws her way.
But the San Benito High senior can control how she responds to those bouts with adversity.
“I’ve faced tough times and great times, but getting back up and recovering from the tough times is what helped shape me,” said Newman, who is a starting forward for a San Benito High girls basketball team that was 16-5 overall and 7-2 in Monterey Bay League Gabilan Division play after its victory over Gilroy on Tuesday.
Near the end of her sophomore year, Newman’s parents, Brian and Rhonda, got divorced. A couple of months later, Rhonda was diagnosed with stage one breast cancer, Newman said.
Rhonda survived but Newman’s aunt, Liz McCluskey, did not. McCluskey died from stage four breast cancer near the end of 2014, Newman said. How did Newman get through this trying period?
Her family, friends and sports played a vital role in keeping Newman focused and strong in the toughest period of her life.
“I feel most grateful in life for the support I’ve had from family, friends and the people in this town,” she said. “And sports helped me to keep my mind off things and to keep on going.”
The 5-foot-6 Newman has put together a solid season, helping the team with her ability to rebound and play excellent interior defense. Newman isn’t much of a scorer, but she did tally a season-high eight points in a 65-55 loss to North Salinas on Jan. 29.
“I usually don’t shoot that much, so that game was kind of my highlight of the season so far,” she said. “That was probably one of my strongest games with rebounding and boxing girls out.”
Haybalers coach Mitch Burley said Newman plays an important role with her ability to rebound, play defense and be an overall strong presence around the paint. Up until this year, Newman was a two-sport standout; she also was the starting right fielder on the school’s softball team in two of the last three years.
However, Newman recently made the decision to not play softball in her senior year, and she’s at peace with it. Even though Newman has always spent more of her off-seasons playing traveling softball to club basketball—she started playing softball at age 6 and basketball at 10—Newman realized playing year-round softball was wearing on her.
“I’m pretty much having such a great time with basketball now, it made me realize I’m pretty burned out on softball,” she said. “There are moments in softball where it’s so stressful because I want to do so good. In basketball, I just go out there and have fun. It has worked out for the better.”
Newman isn’t ruling out a return to softball in college, as she plans on attending Gavilan College in the fall. The Rams are coming off one of their best seasons in program history, and Newman wouldn’t rule out a return to the sport at some point.
Newman said her older sister, Brittany, a former San Benito High standout, was a good role model for her growing up. The two played countless games at Veterans Park, and Brittany provided Alyssa with guidance and words of constructive criticism when she needed it.
“Whenever I got down on myself, she was there for me but didn’t baby me,” Newman said. “She picked me up and motivated me to do better. She pushed me harder than anyone else, so it was great having a sister who I could turn to when things got tough.”

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