By Sam Finley

Jillian Alleyne didn’t have it easy growing up in Southern California. Her mother worked three jobs desperately trying to make ends meet. But, while the 6’3 senior UO forward may not have had much during those tough times, she always had basketball.

“It was an escape for me at a young age,” Alleyne explains. “I loved doing it. Then, as time went on, I realized I was really good at it. I knew that it was one of the ways I could get out of this situation my family was struggling in. If I continued to play basketball and pursue it with the passion that I had, then I had a chance to get a college education.”

And play she did, earning an athletic scholarship to UO. “It definitely makes me appreciate having this chance more,” she says. “Without it, I wouldn’t be here. My parents would not have had the money to put me through college. That’s why I’m so grateful for what I have here.”

The Oregon Ducks take on the Stanford Cardinal at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, Oregon on January 15, 2016 (Eric Evans Photography)

And Duck fans have plenty to be grateful for, too. While the program hasn’t earned many victories in recent years, Alleyne has still given them plenty to cheer about. She’s currently the Pac-12’s active leader in scoring and rebounding. During her sophomore year, she set the conference single season record with 29 double-doubles. Even more recently, she surpassed Bev Smith’s record as Oregon’s all-time leading rebounder. Those are just a few of her many accomplishments on a very long list that may get even longer.

“It’s very humbling,” says Alleyne. “When I graduate and look back on it, these records will mean so much to me. Right now, I’m so in the moment with my team and the season we have. I mean, the records are there and I’m excited for what I’ve reached. I’m so proud, because it takes a lot of hard work. But credit for the hard work goes to the coaches and teammates that pushed me to put it in. So it makes me very proud and happy for sure.”

Her teammates and coaches know there’s more to her than records.

“Jillian has been an incredible teammate,” explains UO senior guard Lexi Petersen. “I’m so thankful and have been blessed to have been able to play with such an amazing player. She has all these records with Oregon and in the Pac-12. But just talking to her in practice, you wouldn’t know that. She’s very humble and works very hard.”

“She’s certainly going to leave a legacy,” says UO women’s head basketball coach Kelly Graves. “Jillian is rewriting the record books in many ways and deservedly so. Because we haven’t won a lot of games in recent years, she really has been the face of the program. A great kid who does all the right things. But I’ll bet you she’d trade all her records for a Pac-12 Championship team, NCAA Tournament team, and all those other things. That’s just the kind of person she is.”

Alleyne confirms that belief.

“I would definitely trade them all in for wins,” she claims. “Team wins are the most important things. The records are there and that’s great, but it’s about the success of the team.”

And this season has been a success, for the most part.  After a strong non-conference slate that included an upset at North Carolina, the Ducks struggled early in Pac-12 play. Since then, they seem to have found their footing, and could finish with 20 or more wins and a shot at postseason play. Alleyne, who is averaging 18 points per game, certainly likes their odds.

“The sky’s the limit, honestly,” Alleyne says. “It took us a few games before we got our first conference win. But I wouldn’t put a limit on this team. Don’t count us out.”

There’s no doubt that she’d like to pursue a career in the WNBA. However, Alleyne already has an idea of what she’d like to do beyond hoops.

“I’m looking to be a speech language pathologist and want to go to grad school,” she says. “My goal is to work with kids who are deaf or hard of hearing. So I’d like to be able to open my own clinic or something that lets me work with kids like that.”

Of her UO career: “I want to be known as the great player that I was for sure,” she says. “But I also want to be remembered for the great impact I made on the community, the fans that I’ve met, and the little girls that came to our games. People may or may not remember the numbers and the records, but they’ll never forget the impact you had on the community, on the program, and [on] their kids. So I want to be remembered as a great player, but an even better person.”