Ivan Alsup isn’t sure how he got the nickname Drivin’ Ivan.
“I think it may have started with Coach [James] McKee somewhere early in the season,” the Overton High point guard said before practice Monday. “But I’m OK with it.”
The term aptly describes the all-out play of the wiry 5-foot-7, 150-pound Alsup, who constantly drives into the teeth of defenses either for hoops or dish-offs to teammates.
This season, he rapidly has etched his name alongside some of the great Overton guards, notably players like Marcus Jemison, Brandon Wharton and, more recently, Mookie Betts, who finished in 2011.
He heads into his final home game on senior night Tuesday against Hillwood, hoping his team can finish the regular season strong.
“People tell me that [Betts] and I play alike,” he said. “I’m honored by that. One of my goals this season was to break his career assist record. I’m second, about 200 behind Mookie, and I won’t catch him. But I’ll settle for second behind a player like he was.”
One of his big disappointments was not reaching the state his sophomore year two years ago, when he played backup point behind Betts. Overton lost a close game to Clarksville in sectionals.
Alsup leads this season’s Bobcats in both scoring (15.3 points per game) and assists (5.1 per game). Despite his size, he is second in rebounds (5.3) behind only post Shaquille Davis.
“I enjoy making a good pass as much as I do scoring,” he added.
Overton is 13-12 overall, having lost nine in games decided in the final minute and two at the final buzzer. The Bobcats are 5-5 in the district with two tight losses to Cane Ridge and two others to McGavock — all four by four points or less and cannot be overlooked at tournament time.
“Since midseason, I think our team has played well under pressure, particularly with so many close games,” Alsup said. “We have the potential. If we start playing with more discipline and as a team, I think we will be hard to beat.’’
After a three-game week, Overton then braces for the District 12-AAA tournament, which opens next week at Cane Ridge High. The Bobcats likely will play either Antioch or Hillwood in their postseason opener.
“Ivan has not been afraid of anything since day one," McKee, who is in his fifth year as Overton coach, said. “He handles the ball for us, and he isn’t afraid to take the last shot.
“He breaks the press by himself. He’s captain and great leader. And at point guard, he is our second leading rebounder, which is pretty amazing. He’s going down as one of the great guards in Overton history. One day, his picture will be on our wall.”
Alsup wears No. 5 for a reason.
“If I had chosen No. 1, that would be an ego thing where one would think I was more important than anyone else. I didn’t want to be No. 3 because that was Mookie’s number, and I didn’t think I should wear that,” he said. “I chose No. 5 because, as captain, I wanted to be one of the five players who comprise a complete team.
“I’ve tried to establish myself as more of a leader this year, encouraging some of the younger guys.”
Alsup had some good company when he grew up playing at the Boys and Girls club. His running mate was his cousin and current Ensworth High star Corn Elder.
“We were four years old,” Alsup said. “We went undefeated all three years, ages four, five and six. It would have been nice to have kept playing with each other, but we split up in middle school.”
Alsup wants to continue playing in college.
Cumberland University in Lebanon has shown some attention. Trevecca Nazarene coach Sam Harris also has attended some games.
“After college, I’d like to play [professionally] overseas,” he said. “Or I might want to coach as I love kids.”
More immediately, Ivan hopes to drive his team to some tournament victories.
Father Ryan at Pearl-Cohn
Maplewood at East Nashville
Brentwood High at Franklin
Cane Ridge at Glencliff
Christ Presbyterian Academy at Lipscomb Academy
East Nashville at Whites Creek
Ensworth at Harpeth Hall, girls
Ensworth at Montgomery Bell Academy (boys)
Franklin Road Academy at Davidson Academy
Hillwood at Overton
Hume-Fogg at Maplewood
McGavock at Antioch
Nashville Central Christian at Martin Luther King
Nashville Christian School at Creekwood
Pearl-Cohn at Stratford
Pope John Paul II at Brentwood Academy
Ravenwood at Hillsboro
University School of Nashville at Riverside Christian
Webb School at St. Cecilia (girls)
First Round of Division II-A tournament at home sites
Brentwood High at Ravenwood
Christ Presbyterian Academy at Hume-Fogg (at TPS)
Nashville Christian School at Hillwood
Overton at Lancaster Christian
First Round of DII-A tournament at home sites