Smithfield: Sports

January 20, 2014

The many faces, and loves, of Alexis Massengill

Alexis Massengill says she loves to get a kick out of surprising people.

Alexis Massengill says she loves to get a kick out of surprising people.

And the 5-foot-7, 135-pound senior power forward for South Johnston High School’s girls basketball team is awfully tough to pigeonhole. Maybe it’s impossible, really.

She looks too small for the position, yet she’s averaging nine points and a whopping 12 rebounds per game for a Trojan team that was 10-4 and had a nine-game winning streak through Thursday.

South is looking for its first conference title in 18 seasons, and coach Ronda Langdon Johnson said Massengill might have been an even better basketball player if she hadn’t also played volleyball and softball and been on the track team for four years.

Volleyball coach Matthew Adams, softball coach Mickey Bridgers and new track coach Megan Jones all say they have similar sentiments. If only she had concentrated on one sport, they say, she would be been even better.

But the coaches have learned to share South’s most successful active female athlete, who has completely broken the mold of what a girl who’s always on the all-conference team is supposed to be.

She’s the student body president, on the leadership council of JoCo Teen Drivers, currently ranked No. 6 in her senior class, and will have a $60,000 scholarship waiting if she decides to attend Campbell University.

She takes dance lessons two nights a week, studying everything from clogging to hip-hop.

She has been a beauty pageant winner almost since before she can remember, being the previous Wee Miss Johnston County, Little Miss Benson, Little Miss Johnston County, Little Miss North Carolina, Miss South Johnston and is the reigning Johnston County Outstanding Teen.

Varied interests, varied talents

Jimmie and Audrey Massengill’s daughter – son Jimmie Jr. is a former Trojan football and baseball player and a sophomore at East Carolina – sings soprano and sometimes leads hymns at Johnson’s Chapel Pentecostal Free Will Baptist, which is just a golf cart ride from the family farm where they raise beef cattle and about a dozen types of vegetables.

“I canned some beans myself last year,” she said with a laugh. “I guess that’s just the country girl coming out.”

And oh, she’s already in college at Johnston Community. She’s taking one course at South this semester so she can play basketball and softball and track.

“My coaches encourage me to do everything when I can,” she said. “I like it that I’m a multi-sport athlete and a dancer, and not just a girl who can get down and dirty on the softball field but can also be prim and proper on a pageant stage. I like to be the person you see in one paper being crowned and the next week going up for a rebound with some funny face.

“My dance teacher asked me if I could work out Saturday and I told her I had to work (at Belk). She said ‘Is there anything else you want to add to your plate?’ But I’m just saving up for college. I did gift wrap at Belk and they asked me to stay on. And, oh, I referee youth basketball and umpire softball.”

Alexis’ father, a captain with the Division of Motor Vehicles and former Highway Patrolman, is also a sports official. Audrey is South Johnston’s school trainer and also a nurse who works many weekends at Johnston Medical Center.

“Alexis has always been an individual who when she sets her mind on something and goes for it and gives her all,” Audrey Massengill said. “We’ve seen her work toward things and accomplish a lot. Her dance instructors say she’s a sponge. She can see it once and do it right away. She’s so organized, and she’s very much into detail.”

On the athletic field

Her ball coaches all say one of Alexis’ strengths is thinking ahead and trying to get into opponents’ heads. She’s like an extra coach on the court, a captain on volleyball and basketball and likely in softball for her senior season.

“Alexis plays a lot bigger than she is,” Langdon Johnson said. “People think when they see her dancing or beauty-queening or walking in the hall with heels and her hair always fixed, she looks so neat and put together people don’t really understand how tough she is.

“She plays great defense, and she’s going to get a rebound if she’s within reach of it. I wish every athlete who came through here was that competitive.”

Her best sport may be volleyball, which she says she wants to play at Campbell – although she still has applications in at UNC, N.C. State, Wake Forest and South Carolina.

“She’s got great instincts,” said Trojan volleyball coach Matthew Adams, whose team finished 13-9 last season. “And she was out at school during the summer when nobody else was here, running track or running bleachers. I mean, who does that? Who’s out there in the heat of the summer working alone to get better as an individual athlete? And she was our best player the past two years.”

Adams moved her from middle hitter to outside hitter for her senior year, and she had 227 kills with 53 errors on 490 attacks for a .355 season average.

Softball has consistently been South’s best girls’ sport, and the Trojans went 21-7 and advanced to the fourth round of the state 3A playoffs last season. Massengill hit .350 with two homers, 10 RBIs and was 6-for-6 on stolen bases in her first full season with the varsity last spring.

“She’s a very talented athlete and she can play a number of positions,” said South softball coach Mickey Bridgers, who added that he may move Massengill to center field after her previous stints at first base and right field. “We want to put the most athletic nine on the field at one time and bring them together as a cohesive group and expand on their abilities. She has the ability to steal bases, and also the strength to knock it out of the park.”

Track and field was almost an afterthought, as she didn’t compete until she was a sophomore.

Now she does the unusual combination of the 800 meters and shot put, also running on the 3,200 relay. And she holds the school record for the 500 (1:28), two seconds better than her coach did.

“Since she plays so many sports we have to share with basketball and softball,” track coach Jones said of Massengill, who has more than once won an event or two at a track meet and then helped win a basketball or softball game later the same day. “I remember asking her mom if she was really good in those other sports because I wanted her to just do track.”

Big plans for the future

With her multi-sport career at least narrowing soon, Massengill said she plans to continue the pageant circuit, perhaps entering the Miss Johnston County or Miss Benson competitions.

And when she’s a few years older, she’d like to be district attorney.

“I want to be a prosecutor to help others who can’t help themselves,” she explained. “I’m a huge ‘Walker, Texas Ranger’ fan and love Alex Cahill (played by Sheree J. Wilson) because she’s the district attorney.

“Also my dad’s involved in law and my grandma was a magistrate. And my grandfather, Cecil Massengill, was a politician - Register of Deeds and County Commissioner.”

It’s all about simple but efficient time management.

“I have my ‘second Bible’ - that’s my calendar,” she said. “If you saw it, you’d say ‘Oh my God, this girl’s crazy!’”

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