December 15, 2000
Cool, calm and collective.
That phrase is how junior guard Al Faux describes himself. He doesn't say much. He lets his game do the talking for him.
He plays with the elegance and gracefulness that fits his given name, Alastair. He moves with quiet confidence. But, deep inside is a fierce competitor who demands a lot of himself and is driven to succeed.
"Off the court I'm laid back," he said. "I like to stay home and watch movies and play video games. But on the court I'm someone who plays hard and never wants to lose."
Faux is a 6-2 walk-on and junior college transfer from Shoreline Community College. Prior to college, Faux attended Crenshaw High School in South Central Los Angeles, where keeping a cool head could mean the difference between life and death.
"It was rough," he said. "But it helped me become stronger mentally. I saw all the negativity around me and I didn't want to be involved in it. It made me try that much harder to succeed."
Success is what Faux has strived for since the age of seven, when he first picked up a basketball and fell in love with the game.
"It was the first ball I ever touched," he said. "I remember sitting there and watching the Laker games with my dad, and I just fell in love."
Growing up, he learned the ins and outs of the game like ball handling, defensive techniques and footwork as a member of the KNE Bulls traveling team.
"My traveling team helped me out a lot as far as skill development," he said. "Also my coach was so disciplined that it grew on me and I became that way."
Faux took his valuable experience to Crenshaw, where he became a three-year letter-winner under legendary head coach Willie West, Jr. Success at Crenshaw wasn't an option, it was a way of life.
"Coach West demanded a lot from us," he said. "We practiced four and a half hours a day and we had to go hard the whole time. He wouldn't accept anything less. That helped me because it made me push myself even harder even when I was tired."
Faux helped lead his team to three city championships and two state championships. Individually, he garnered numerous awards. He made first team all-city as a junior and senior, and was third team all-state as a senior, averaging 25 points, four assists and four steals a game.
Coming out of high school Faux originally signed a letter of intent to play for the University of Minnesota under former head coach Clem Haskins. Instead he headed to Washington and joined a struggling program at Shoreline Community College in Seattle.
"I feel God wanted me to take a different road," he said. "I needed to develop physically, get stronger."
Faux averaged 25 points a game at Shoreline, while being selected first team all-Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges two straight years.
Living on his own for the first time helped Faux develop as a person. It also helped that life in Seattle was nothing like living in L.A.
"Living on my own, I had to fend for myself," he said. "I didn't have my mom there to take care of me. But, living there was different, a lot slower. You didn't always have to look over your back. It was what I needed. I realized that all people weren't bad."
When it was time to begin his career at the Division I level, he had it in mind to return to California. Needing help finding a school that was right for him, he gave San Diego State assistant coach Marvin Menzies a call.
"I was surprised he was still available when he called me," Menzies said. "I was more than willing to help him because I've known him for several years."
As it turned out, SDSU began to look more and more appealing to Faux. Although the team had no scholarships to offer, Faux decided to accept a walk-on position, turning down full ride offers from Oregon State and Gonzaga in the process.
"I told him that we didn't have any scholarships to offer, but if he wanted to try a walk-on situation, we could look into it," Menzies said. "The more he looked at it, the more he realized this was a better fit than the scholarship offers he received."
Although the other offers seemed difficult to refuse, Faux's heart was in the Golden State.
"I really wanted to stay in California," Faux said. "I also wanted to play for coach Fisher. He has coached a lot of players who are now in the NBA. I wanted to play for a great coach."
When it came time to show what he could do on the court, he didn't disappoint. Faux is a walk-on only by name. Not many walk-ons have played against NBA players like Baron Davis, Khalid El-Amin and Eric Barkley in high school and held their own.
"Showing the coaches I could play was never an issue," he said. "I know I can play and coaches know good ballplayers when they see them. I knew if I came down and played like I know I can play then I would get an opportunity."
"Coach Fisher hadn't had the opportunity to see him play," Menzies said. "But I knew how good he was from high school. I expected it and he (Faux) expected it, and we just let the rest happen on the court."
So far this season, Faux has exceeded what was expected of him. Coming off the bench and as a starter, he gives the team a boost wherever it's needed. His biggest asset to the team has been his versatility.
"I can play both guard spots. I can defend well, help rebound and give the team a lift whenever needed," he said.
"We know Al is someone who can give us solid perimeter play at either position. He has ball skills and size and he is a pretty productive scorer and shooter from the perimeter. He has length and athleticism to be a good defender," said head coach Steve Fisher.
Against Sacramento State earlier this season, Faux came off the bench to score 19 points, 17 in the first half. When asked if that was his coming out party, he quietly nodded his head. For his contributions off the bench, he earned his first career start in last Saturday's last-second loss to San Diego. He scored 13 points and almost single-handedly kept the Aztecs in the game at the end.
According to Menzies, the issue of Faux earning a scholarship is no big deal because as long as he continues to contribute he will see plenty of action.
"It doesn't matter whether you're walk-on or a scholarship player," he said. "It's all about the best players playing. Remember, coach Fisher played five freshmen at Michigan. Those were the best five players on the team. It's what you do in practice and during the games that gets you minutes."
Faux's play this season has earned the respect of his teammates as well.
"They all like Al," Menzies said. "He's real mellow and just goes on about his business. He's a silent soldier. Generally guys like that are liked by their teammates."