SHE PROBABLY WOULDN’T DESCRIBE HERSELF THIS WAY, but Alexiz Graise is the next phenom. It’s just that her dedication to the game sets her apart from everyone else.
She doesn’t discriminate. No cap, she gets buckets on girls and boys too. “Basketball is universal. Girls get the same calls, have the same refs, and play by the same rules. The game is evolving,” says Graise.
She meal preps, trains twice a day and spends hours analyzing film. Did I mention she’s only 12 years old? She’s a 5’8 two-way guard in the 2025 class, ready to make her mark on the game.
Two years ago she walked away from Jujitsu and stepped on the hardwood. Long before she fought to be respected on the court, she was fighting boys while participating in martial arts.
Eventually, she lost her passion for Jujitsu and fell in love with basketball. She found a way to apply the art and technique she acquired doing Jujitsu to hooping.
Martial arts and basketball share many similarities —both are mental and physical.
With virtually no prior training, she’s had to learn an entirely new set of skills, she’s a young hooper that should be on your radar.
HER GAME IS VERY DETAILED. While most players are comfortable settling for a three-point shot, she’s perfecting her fundamentals, footwork, and overall game.
When her father was training her brothers, she would watch her brothers play. One day, her father asked if she wanted to play — the rest was history. When she picked up a basketball, she realized that she had found her love.
Her father, Dannie Graise, recognized that she had a gift when he saw her shoot for the first time. “She’s a fast learner and the game comes naturally to her,” he says.
He pushes her by asking her questions to get her to think about her future and motivate her. He says, “I don’t want it to be my dream, I want it to be hers. If it’s her dream then I know that she really wants it.”
As I talked to her about her father, I can hear the admiration that she has for him in her voice. Says Graise, “I realize that my parents have sacrificed a lot for me. I’m hungry to learn more about the game and become a better player. I know there’s pressure on me but I don’t feel it.”
DESPITE NOT FEELING THE PRESSURE, the pressure is there. The pressure to be an elite student-athlete — she currently has a 3.5 GPA … and there’s a whole lot more, but she handles it with such poise.
As I watch her proceed through drills via videos of her workouts, It’s hard for me to believe that she’s only been hooping for two years. “I love competing and playing against players that are better than me because it shows me where my game is at. A lot of girls have more experience than me because I haven’t been playing long but I’m a confident player because I’ve gotten better,” she says.
You have to be a confident player if you aspire to hoop for South Carolina Gamecocks. Her goal is to play under coach Dawn Staley. She spends hours and hours analyzing the film of USC games. Says Graise, “Staley was one of the greatest point guards in women’s basketball. I want to play for her because I feel I can learn a lot from her.”
Under current head coach Dawn Staley, the Gamecocks have been one of the top programs in the country, winning the National Championship in 2017 — not a bad choice Alexiz.
Her father knows the importance of investing in her dream. So much so, he had set up a flight for her to meet Dawn Staley and watch the Gamecock’s women’s basketball team play.
“SHE WORKS HARD, I wanted to reward her for her work. Attending college games allows her to see what it’s like to play on that level,” said her father.
Unfortunately, she never got the chance to attend a Gamecocks game or meet Dawn Staley. The tragic death of Kobe Bryant brought her and her father to their knees. After Kobe’s death, her father was a wreck.
As we talk about Kobe’s legacy, there’s a brief quietness as emotions overcome us. We have a moment of silence. We tear up. We breakdown. We understand each other’s pain.
Returning to school after the death of hoops-loving Gigi wasn’t an easy task for Graise. As she walked down the hall the words “You look like Gigi” continued to echo throughout her head.
Says Graise, “I was a big fan of Gigi, everyone at school says I resemble her. She was an amazing player and it was a very sad day for me when she died.”
In many ways, her relationship with her father mirrors that of Kobe and Gigi. She had a special relationship with her father before playing basketball, but basketball has made their connection stronger. Says her father, “I love the game but she doesn’t have to play for me to love her. I want to show her what true love is. I’ll love her unconditionally regardless. I just want to support her while she chases her dream.”
IT’S BIGGER THAN BEING THE BEST PLAYER AT HER MIDDLE SCHOOL, for her, it’s about getting to the next level. She’s on the right path and she’s just getting started, grab your popcorn.
You have to have fun while playing basketball. If you’re not having fun then it’s not for you. That’s the mindset I have,” Graise says.
Becoming a great hooper is Plan A. And for Alexiz Graise, there aren’t any backup plans