Tamesha Alexander watched video clips of 1970s NBA games on YouTube with her father and quickly noticed the players' fashion sense, with their long, white socks and short shorts.

The image stuck.

"When I was young," the Shipley senior recalled, "I always thought that you had to look like the older basketball players that wore short shorts and tube socks with the little stripes on them.

"I was inspired by that, and I came in decked out to practice with the headband, the wristband, the socks, the whole nine."

The players were at an AAU basketball tournament at a rec center in New Jersey, and being preteen girls, they were having some fun, sitting in a circle and giving themselves nicknames.

When the group focused on 11-year-old Alexander, one of the players had an idea, sparked by Alexander's affinity for long tube socks.

Why not, Colleen Walsh suggested, call her "Sox?"

The name stuck.

The Shipley point guard has not only one of the area's top games, but also, thanks to Walsh and some adolescent goofiness, its coolest nickname.

Sox Alexander - very few people call her Tamesha - started all but one game for the Gators in her first three seasons and led them to a 63-22 record.

A 5-foot-6 point guard with a pass-first mentality and nifty dishing skills, she committed to St. John's shortly before her junior season. Last month, she signed a letter of intent with the Red Storm.

"Having dealt with all the recruiting that she did, it was genius," Shipley coach Sean Costello said of the nickname. "Whether she meant it to be a marketing ploy or not, every single college coach knew who she was."

Like a strong marketing campaign, it received a ton of support.

Everyone seems to call her Sox: players, coaches, teachers, friends. Everyone, she said, except for her grandmother and her aunts. She even introduces herself as Sox. (She does admit, though, to writing "Tamesha" on tests and homework.)

But in Alexander's case, marketing took a backseat to style.

Spurred by the '70s look, she started a socks collection, and it grew quickly and loudly.

"Black stripes. Red stripes," Alexander said. "Then, they just got crazier as I got older, [crazier] with what was on them - mustaches, ninjas. Anything that's cool that looks colorful, I was with it."

Alexander says she has more than 70 pairs of socks. She has bought them at a shop in King of Prussia, through Under Armour (which sponsors both the Shipley team and St. John's, Costello said), online, and anywhere else she spots them.

"I try to find the spunkiest pair, or I'll try to find a pair that match well with the uniform," said Alexander, 17, who commutes to the Bryn Mawr school from her Northeast Philadelphia home.

"But I don't try to match too much. I just go with whatever I like, whatever I'm feeling at the time."

Alexander has scored 1,107 points and is 183 away from setting Shipley's all-time scoring mark for basketball, boys' or girls'.

She averaged 13.4 points, 4.8 assists, 4 steals, and 3.4 rebounds last season and was named to the all-Friends Schools League first team for the third straight year.

"She always sees the floor, and she knows when to make the right pass and when to take it herself and go to the basket, draw fouls," said Walsh, the nickname guru and a fellow Gators senior.

Alexander said she picked St. John's because Red Storm coach Joe Tartamella recruited her "hard," starting around the time she was in the eighth grade.

Tartamella is in his second season as head coach after nine years as an assistant at St. John's.

"Her ability, her savviness that she has and . . . her change of speed are what make her an extremely effective player," Tartamella said.

"And I also think she enjoys the thrill of the pass as much as she enjoys scoring. I think she's a kid who really enjoys setting up players but also has the ability to at times even back players down. She can even work in the post a little bit."

Alexander will face at least one challenge at the next level.

In college, players can't wear just any socks. Tartamella said the rules regarding socks include some color blending with the home and away uniforms.

So what if Alexander couldn't wear one of her favorite pairs in a certain game?

"I don't think if you put different socks on her that it would change the way she plays," Tartamella said.

He can only hope.

rabitol@phillynews.com

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