Female member of BYU Dunk Team overcomes trials, makes history

Alexa Wilson dunks the ball in a BYU men’s basketball game halftime show. She launched off a trampoline and flew through the air toward the rim. (BYU Photo)

BYU’s Dunk Team is an athletic team that entertains, educates and inspires. Alexa Wilson, a member of the team, is also making history.

Alexa is a senior at BYU studying exercise and wellness with a minor in business. She has been on the dunk team for three years.

Her skills were clear even at a young age. From the time she was four years old, she was a gymnast, training five hours a day for five days a week, she said. Her goal was to come to BYU for gymnastics. However, due to COVID-19 limiting her ability to compete at events and a back injury, that goal didn’t work out.

“My freshman year (at BYU), I was so down. I was just wondering what I was supposed to do because I’ve been training my whole life for this, and now I don’t have anything to do,” she said.

One day she was sitting in the library when Cosmo the Cougar came up to her and handed her a flyer for Dunk Team tryouts. She went to tryouts, worked hard and eventually made the team, she said.

She said it has been a joy to be part of a team like the Dunk Team.

“It was exactly what I needed to do. I got to work out every day and got to do flips and all that stuff … but it was fun, and it wasn’t something that I woke up every morning and dreaded. I was excited and it showed me too that being on a team can be a fun experience,” she said.

Alexa is currently the only girl on the team out of two or three others who performs regularly in halftime and other shows. She said she has never felt discriminated against, though she is one of the only girls on the male-dominated team.

“I can recognize that I don’t have all the physical capabilities that a guy does, but that doesn’t limit what I think that I can do,” she said.

One of the common shows the Dunk Team puts on is called a “Cougar Built.”

The BYU Dunk Team page explains a Cougar Built’s purpose is, “to produce inspiring assemblies for schools K-12 in Utah County. These assemblies will include motivational speeches from BYU athletes and dunk team members that focus on topics such as respect, self-worth, bully prevention, and more! Each assembly will conclude with an amazing performance by the Dunk Team!”

Kathy Berrett, a volunteer who assists with community events, goes to these Cougar Builts. She mentioned that she was “so stoked to see a female athlete on the dunk team.”

When she watches Alexa perform, she said she feels grateful.

“I feel grateful for other women who display courage and try something new. I see the little girls at the schools light up with cheers and high fives, but think, what an example she is to these young people. They see that you can do anything you put your mind to, and that the only limits we have are the ones we put on ourselves,” Berrett said.

Speaking of limits, Wilson has certainly pushed past them. Alexa became the first ever woman on the Dunk Team to hit a “front dunk”. A front dunk involves jumping off a trampoline, doing a front flip in the air while catching a basketball, spotting the rim and dunking it.

Alexa displays her skills in passing, catching and dunking. The last clip shows a front dunk for an elementary school. (Reihana Wilson)

Alexa explained that JT Oldroyd, a previous member of the Dunk Team, pushed her to work toward mastering the stunt. Oldroyd was on the team for five years and graduated December 2022.

“Watching Alexa grow as a dunker has been awesome. She was especially fun to cheer on because she was the first girl ever to be doing what she was doing at BYU,” Oldroyd said.

He mentioned that he wanted her to get her front dunk because he could tell she was capable of it, but just didn’t know it herself at the time. He said that this specific dunk is a scary and difficult skill.

“I knew she could be one of the few girls to ever dunk using the same trampoline settings and basketball size we did. There have been other girls in the world to front dunk, but they used smaller balls, lower rims and/or closer tramps. Alexa was talented enough not to need any of that,” Oldroyd said.

Alexa said finally hitting the front dunk was one of the coolest things ever and all the guys on the team were so supportive of her. When Midnight Madness came around, she was prepared. Midnight Madness is hosted by BYU basketball and includes player and coaching staff introductions, along with the Dunk Team putting on a show for thousands of student fans.

Alexa slammed the front dunk that night.

“The hype that everyone was giving me and the support, cheers, screaming, and finally making it and just being so excited was probably one of the coolest things that I’ve ever felt,” she said.

Alexa hits the front dunk at Midnight Madness. She grabs the ball mid-flip from Cosmo’s hand and slams it down. (Video courtesy of Alexa Wilson)

Alexa’s successes, achievements and example reach fans in shows but also personally touch the people in her everyday life. One of these, Gabrielle Parker, a new member on the Dunk Team and BYU junior, discussed the impact she has had on her.

“Alexa has been a great example of hard work and how to integrate myself into the team culture especially as it is mostly men,” she said.

Joshua Wilson, Alexa’s husband and self-proclaimed number one supporter, said it’s always amazing watching her perform.

“I get to hear about all of the cool things that she’s working on at practice, and it’s amazing to see all of her practice pay off,” he said.

He also shared that the Dunk Team has helped her more than physically — it has been beneficial to her mentality.

“Early on, she’d really get in her head and down on herself if she had a bad show. Now, she’s able to find a better balance of knowing she can do better but recognizing also how far she’s come,” Wilson said.

Alexa shared that because of her position and status, she can help other people and prove what she and other women can do in sports.

“Women can do anything, push yourself, work hard and you’ll see results,” she said.

With her last semester of BYU ahead of her, she said she doesn’t want to leave with any regrets and wants to lay it all on the line.

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