Tucked in the rolling hills along the southern tier of western New York, about an hour south of Rochester and even less to the Pennsylvania border, sits Alfred University. The private school is small, with approximately 2,000 undergraduates, but has a longstanding reputation for excellence in academics.
The university also has a strong athletic department and their teams have always been competitive with similar schools in western and central New York.
Felicia Stewart, one of Pioneer’s standout girls’ basketball players over the past few seasons, was looking to continue her playing career while earning an education to help her begin the next chapter in her life.
Alfred, meet Felicia. Felicia, meet Alfred. It just seems like a perfect fit.
“I chose Alfred because they have a great business program and when I went on my visit, and even before that, all the coaches were great and it just felt like home,” Stewart said. “I had a gut feeling that this was just right for me so I went with it.”
Stewart plans on studying marketing and of course playing basketball for the Saxons. The 5-9 guard will wear No. 23 for Alfred – Michael Jordan’s number and the number she wore for the Pioneers, one of the top teams in the SEC the last several seasons.
Two seasons ago was one of great change for Stewart and the girls’ basketball program at Pioneer.
“We had graduated six seniors from the previous year so in a way we lost a lot of the voice to our team,” she says. “Our team was young and very quiet team so we had some adjusting to do.”
They adjusted quite well and turned in a strong couple of seasons despite the obvious challenges all teams faced this past year. Pioneer, one of the top teams in the area, was in the running for an SEC title all season before falling short and finishing second to Saline. Still, it was a special team and a special season.
“Something that made our team special was that we could do pretty much everything,” she says. “When scouting for a team people can usually put a team into a bracket. Either the team is a shooting team or a driving team. We could do both. We had shooters and we had our drivers and all were very talented. We also were a strong defensive team.”
Stewart, 17, took on the role of “vocal” leader on the team.
“Our team was very quiet and I saw myself as a vocal leader on our team,” she said. “I also saw myself as a ‘hype man.’ I like to be very active and positive and sometimes loud.”
Stewart, who played AAU basketball for three years with Common Band, earned All-SEC Team Honorable Mention and made the school’s Honor Roll.
Felicia, the daughter of Shenida Page, first became interested in basketball when she was in the fifth grade.
“When I was younger I always played sports that my siblings did, that was kind of a given in our family,” she said. “In a way we used it to compete against each other like who could have a better game. I started playing because my younger brother was playing on a Rec and Ed team and would always brag about how much better he was than me. So I found a team that was short a couple of players and found my love for the game.”
Stewart says she enjoyed her final year at Pioneer despite the challenges that came with the pandemic.
“Honestly, I loved this school year,” she said. “I think it has helped me in my time management and prepared me for college. I was able to work a full-time job and really enjoyed doing it. A lot of people look at me like I’m crazy when I say that but to me I take pride in it because I am able to do so many things at a time and still excel in what I am doing.”
And now she looks to excel at what she does in western New York.
“The coach is amazing and the players have each other’s backs,” she says. “They are very energetic and intense and I love it.”
A perfect match.