Double teamed

Two-sport athlete Aliana Anderson is making her mark on the hardwood

CMU junior Alina Anderson poses for a portrait, Tuesday, February 27, in Wightman Hall.

Growing up in a disciplined household in Rockford, Michigan, sophomore Alina Anderson became used to juggling multiple things at one time. Anderson’s love for sports began early, and she quickly established herself as a three-sport athlete during her high school years, playing soccer, basketball and volleyball.

As she began to think about her future, Anderson faced a hard decision of choosing one sport to continue pursuing. In her junior year of high school, Anderson signed to play volleyball at Ferris State, eliminating her soccer and basketball careers. 

However, last year brought a surprising turn of events: Anderson transferred to Central Michigan to play volleyball. 

What she didn’t know was the door to a basketball career was about to crack open.

“I signed to play at Ferris … I didn’t have the best experience there and I don’t think it was the right fit for me,” Anderson said. “I would say the year of ’23 was a lot of change for me, just because I started off transferring here for volleyball and had a great first semester here. My volleyball teammates are awesome, and my coaches are awesome.”

While volleyball initially took the collegiate spotlight, basketball was the sport she always loved. Despite expectations, Anderson found herself drawn to the challenge and excitement of playing basketball again. 

“Basketball has always been the sport that I love most,” Anderson said. “My sister played basketball for four years at Ferris, ... my brothers both play and my mom went to school for it. So, I think that it’s been in our family for a long time and when I committed to volleyball, people were kind of surprised I didn’t go down the basketball route.”

An unexpected twist in her athletic journey came when the volleyball coach informed her that the basketball program was interested in adding her to the roster, led by first-year head coach Kristin Haynie who had a previous connection with Anderson.

“End of November or beginning of December, my volleyball coach texted me in class and was like ‘Hey we need to talk,’” Anderson said. “The basketball coach was interested in me, and coach (Haynie) was one of my trainers in middle school so it’s kind of a small world and I knew she was coming here.”

With commitments to both volleyball and basketball, Anderson faced the challenge of managing a demanding schedule. Balancing practices, games and academic responsibilities can be mentally exhausting, but because of Anderson’s experience in being a multi-sport athlete in high school, it comes naturally. 

“I’ve gotten this question a lot,” Anderson said. “Honestly, I kind of just do it. I don’t really think too much about it. Each day I wake up and I’m at the gym from 7 (a.m.) to 1:30 or 2 (p.m.), depending on if I have volleyball that day. I go from practice to practice, and I’ll eat in between. Honestly, it reminds me of high school. 

“School has never been a big struggle of mine, which I’m grateful for.” 

Despite the mental and physical challenges, Anderson expressed gratitude for the support she receives from her family, teammates and coaches, who continue to check in on her and provide her with necessary resources.

“Alina is a mentally tough person,” Haynie said. “On top of her full class schedule, she is doing basketball practice and, later in the day, volleyball workouts, as well as getting in the gym (extra time) and getting shots up on her own. She is a true definition of someone that is invested in not only volleyball, but women’s basketball.”

When transferring to Central Michigan, Anderson was placed on the volleyball team without a scholarship. She worked twice as hard to prove her worth. Now being on another Division I team, she continued to show her persistence in both, growing as a player.

“Alina brings tremendous passion and toughness to our team everyday,” Haynie said. “She is constantly talking and bringing energy to our practices. She’s a sponge and very coachable, and she does everything you ask of her without complaining.”

This challenge came with new emotions for Anderson. She was now facing being away from family for longer periods, due to the overlapping seasons of her sports.

In a time of homesickness, the basketball staff gathered an emotional surprise for Anderson, including a video from her family at home. What she didn’t know, was her family was presenting her with a basketball scholarship. 

“I was missing home and that video came up of my family, so I started to tear up,” Anderson said. “I thought it was just a getting to know our new teammate video, but (Haynie) kept the video going and they all said, ‘Congrats on your full-ride scholarship’ and I was just filled with joy. 

“I work so hard … this has always been a part of my nature. I don’t like being average, and getting that scholarship felt like I had finally been rewarded for all my hard work.”

Anderson is grateful for her coaches, especially Haynie whose style, she said, is focused on rebuilding. 

“She is a great coach,” Anderson said. “Words can’t describe how much she does for our program. She’s trying to rebuild this culture and to be a part of that is really cool. She’s so kind, she cares so much but she’s also hard on us and holds us to a high standard, and I think that’s something a lot of coaches might struggle with.”

Anderson views herself as part of a larger narrative, contributing to the rebuilding process of both the basketball and volleyball programs. She continues to acknowledge the influence of the strong women in her life, particularly her coaches, who have played a significant role in shaping her perspective.

“My basketball coaches are four very empowering women,” Anderson said. “They are so confident in what they do … and I think that’s honestly made me more of a powerful woman myself. I have two women on my coaching staff for volleyball, and they are also very empowering.”

As she looks ahead, Anderson is excited about the opportunity to continue playing both volleyball and basketball at CMU. Her love for basketball continues to grow, and she remains dedicated to her faith, which plays a significant role in her journey.

“It takes a lot of drive and time management,” Anderson said. “You have to be willing to sacrifice a lot. I am really strong in my faith and that honestly helps me a lot because I know this is part of God’s plan for me, and I know that this is what I am supposed to be doing right now.”