From retirement to record-breaking, the fifth year earns historic scoring honor


Photo by: Cullen Dore

Fifth-year accounting and finance major Alex Cox hangs from the rim with one hand after powering down the court for a slam dunk.

During a game against Barton College on Feb. 15, senior guard and accounting and finance double major Alex Cox became the 22nd player in program history to reach 1,000 points.

“Freshman year, I was terrible, and I do not think anyone could have thought I would turn out like this,” Cox said. “I went from scoring 22 points that whole year to becoming a 1,000th point scorer.”

Cox is in his fifth year with the Patriots after receiving a year of eligibility back from COVID-19. However, Cox said he had originally planned to leave the team and focus on his graduation and future career.

“I did initially ‘retire’ before this season,” Cox said. “I had told the coaching staff at the end of last year that I was ready to hang up the shoes and jersey. I think mentally I was exhausted because there are a lot of behind-the-scenes things that not a lot of people know and understand that takes a toll on student-athletes. I also started to realize that my body was exhausted from putting it through season after season, and off-season, countless times.”

Cox said he went through a personal loss that shaped his mentality for his final season.

“I lost my grandfather right before the season started last year, which was very tough on me, and I went through a period of depression because he was my biggest fan and supporter,” Cox said. “Losing him was hard because he was a big reason that kept me motivated to keep playing. I dedicated that year to him in memory, and when the season ended, I did not think I could put on a jersey again to keep playing.”

When Cox stepped away after his fourth year, he said he started looking for full-time jobs to start his career. Cox said he talked to present head coach Jake Zehnder about coaching or helping the team while he finished school, but did not talk about returning to the court as a player.

Cox said that Zehnder contacted him two days before the season began in October and asked him for a meeting. Zehnder offered Cox his spot back on the team if he still wanted to play, and he gave Cox a day to consider since Cox would need to be there for the first day of the season.

“I did not need a full day to decide,” Cox said. “My decision was made an hour after the meeting that I wanted to come back and play.”

The transition, according to Cox, was rough after not playing for eight months. Cox said he had picked up a basketball a few times with friends but had not fully trained since the previous season.

“I was out of shape and did not have the basketball mojo I once had,” Cox said. “Coming back, Coach Z and I made a deal where I would be able to get back into shape on my own, I would get my same number 11 and I would see fewer minutes than my previous two years of playing.”

Seeing as how Cox is ranked third in the conference for minutes played, this did not happen, but Cox said he would not change a thing.

“I truly thought with coming back I was only going to score around four points a game and play only about 18-20 minutes, but I am averaging a little over 15 points and playing 34.6 minutes a game, and I would not trade a single second to do it differently,” Cox said. “Also, scoring my 1,000th point in my career would not be possible without everything that has happened this season.”

Moving forward, Cox plans to graduate in May, officially retiring from the Patriot basketball team.

“I would like to finish the season on a strong note, and finish with maybe a conference title,” Cox said. “As far as off the court, in the beginning of the season, my mindset was to just get a full-time job somewhere for maybe the company I work for now, but after how well I have been playing, I would like to try to play overseas somewhere in Europe maybe, just to say I tried it. If it does not work out, then I will be happy with whatever outcome comes out of it and move on to the next chapter of my life.”

Though it turned into a longer journey than he was expecting, Cox said that he loved starting and finishing his career at FMU.

“I have had a lot of ups and downs, from winning seasons and making the NCAA tournament to losing seasons where we struggled to win,” Cox said. “I would not trade those seasons for anything though, because I learned a lot about myself during that that shaped me into the player I am to this day. It is part of the game to go through ups and downs, but every year I gave everything to the team and the program so that I could leave saying I have no regrets.”

Now staring the end of his collegiate career in the face, Cox said he wants to thank everyone for their role in his career and for accepting him as a player.

“A no-name kid came to this school a nobody and made a name for himself through hard work and dedication,” Cox said. “I have given it my all every single game of every single and I am thankful for everyone that has seen me play and cheered me on. To leave the school as one of the greatest players to put on a Francis Marion jersey is something I never could have dreamed of, and I am just so thankful that the coaching staff took a chance on me. Hopefully, I made a lot of people proud and fulfilled everything the coaches thought I could be and more.”