Four years is a long time.
For Alyssa Baron, an Ivy League title and a chance to rebuild a program is no longer a dream that brought her to Penn from Gulliver Prep .
After all, when the Quakers take on Texas in the first round of the NCAA Championships on Sunday in College Park, Md., it will mark the Ivy Player of the Year's first tournament appearance — but also the final chapter in her long journey with Penn's basketball program.
The DP article after her first game read “Strong Start from Freshman,” but even then nobody expected her to have such a lasting impact on the program.
“In the first half, I just kept taking it strong to the basket. I knew the defenders couldn’t cover me as well as they should have been able to,” Baron said after the 70-59 win over Bryant in the 2010-11 season .
Well, they still haven’t figured out how to cover one of the most hard-charging, never-back-down guards whose jump floaters will remain the most iconic shot in Penn women’s basketball history.
As she has built up her resume — Ivy Rookie of the Year, second at Penn all-time in points, two first-team All-Ivy nods — she has done it with a smile on her face and the team at the forefront.
She’s provided the Palestra with more than its fair share of moments. While not as crowd-pleasing as Ibby Jaaber’s dunk against Florida Gulf Coast or momentous as Steve Danley’s strip of Andre Logan to complete Penn's 18-point turnaround at Princeton, her game-winning three-pointer in the Women’s Basketball Invitational over Fairfield will be forever remembered by those who attended as a truly dramatic moment in a historic building.
“It’s a shot I’ve taken hundreds of times, I’ve practiced almost every day of my life and I just pulled up for the shot and it luckily went in,” Baron said in a post-game interview after the step-back jumper.
For those who see her every day, it was a familiar sight — Baron just being herself and continually amazing others in the process.
“All my four years I’ve been waiting for this opportunity,” Baron said after Selection Monday.
“It’s just a huge accomplishment. We had an overall team effort and it’s what I’ve been dreaming about for four years, we’ve been working towards it ... and tonight we were able to get it accomplished,” Baron said after the Princeton win. “It’s just so gratifying for all our hard work.”
And now we’ve come to March. The end of the season may prove integral to shaping her legacy here at Penn.
“[I’ve been impressed with] her overall basketball maturity, she has special skill, but she’s learned how to play for the good of the team,” coach Mike McLaughlin said earlier in the year. “If she needs to score, she’ll try to score more. If she needs to rebound, she’ll try to rebound. If she needs to be a better leader, she’ll try to do that.
“She’s always tried to take not only her basketball game, but her leadership to another level,” he added. "When she’s done in March, I think you’ll see not only a tremendous basketball player who has done well here, but someone who has become a leader for her teammates.”
While her legacy as one of the best Ivy players of all time may be up for debate, it’s not quite time to discuss it yet.
Instead, there are just three days to go before the biggest game of her life.