Alexis Givands didn’t get her first tattoo until she was 15 years old, but the colored ink that covers her skin tells the story of her life from the beginning, starting with the one that reads “Memphis” on the back of her neck.
“Better watch out for that Memphis slang she speaks,” USF women’s basketball coach Jose Fernandez said.
Memphis is the only home the junior transfer has ever known.
“Oh man, I would love to have some Memphis barbeque right now,” Givands said. “You got a full slab of ribs, some of those beans — the ones with the meat in them — and then, of course, coleslaw.”
Home may be a place for a good grill-out, but Givands said it’s a place filled with both emptiness and happiness.
She said she’s grateful for her mother, Beatriz Presley, who raised her as a single parent, but there is still the lingering memory of a father who left her when she was a baby.
“He’s somewhere out there,” Givands said, looking at the floor. “He’s never really been in my life.”
There has been one male figure in her life, though. In fact, Charles Beasley — Givands’ grandfather — put the basketball in her hands when she was 6 years old. After he died in 1998, she had a basketball tattooed on her right calf.
“He used to have me jumping off tables at my grandmother’s house,” Givands said. “She would always get mad and all, but I was really the only one in my family to ever play.”
The Memphis native is also the only one in her family to go to college.
“I am just so proud of her,” her mother said. “I’m used to her doing her best. I know she can do anything.”
Presley’s faith in her daughter’s ability might have something to do with the Capricorn symbol tattooed on Givands’ back.
Capricorns are known for being dedicated, persistent and tenacious, kind of like the Givands plays basketball, Fernandez said.
“She’s a very versatile player,” he said. “She can hurt you in so many different ways on offense and defense. She’s a great kid, and we’re lucky to have her.”
Beyond her talent, the Bulls may also consider themselves lucky because she almost went elsewhere for college.
“To be real honest, at first, I never even wanted to go to USF,” Givands said.
As a senior at Kirby High School, she was pursued by Auburn University and the University of Kentucky.
“I wanted to go to Kentucky,” Givands said. “I took one visit to Tampa, though, and talked to coach Fernandez, and that was all I needed.”
She went to Gulf Coast Community College initially for two years. Then, she signed with USF in May 2008.
She didn’t come alone, though.
Janae Stokes, another junior, transferred with Givands. Together, they helped GCCC win a national championship in 2007. Stokes said having Givands with her helped them both to make a decision to play at South Florida.
“I think us coming down here together happened for a reason,” Stokes said. “We are like each other’s backbone. One minute she’s down, and I pick her up, then the next minute I’m down and she picks me up.”
However, the main reason Givands came to USF was because of Fernandez’s influence.
“Coach Fernandez has been like a father figure to me,” she said. “He told me right away that anything I ever needed, he would do for me, and that was big.”
The 5-foot-9 junior guard has been doing some big things on the court, as well. That may explain the stars tattooed up and down her left arm and leg.
“I’m always striving to be a star,” Givands said, smiling.
She’s already earned a starting spot and scored 20 points in USF’s season-opening victory Saturday against Central Connecticut State.
Givands said it’s been an easy transition into the team.
“It’s nice to have four experienced players playing around me,” she said. “When I make a mistake or have a question they can help me, so that’s good.”
Whether it is the name of a city, an astrological sign or whatever, Presley said she still rolls her eyes over the tattoos.
“I just don’t get it,” she said, laughing. “Maybe it’s just the generation, you know.”
Maybe it is, but maybe it isn’t. Maybe it’s the fact that they represent, symbolically, the journey from Memphis to Tampa for Givands.
“They’re just different,” she said. “They’re just a different way to, you know, show who ‘me’ is.”
In the same sense, perhaps her experience at South Florida will inspire Givands’ next tattoo.