He's 5'8", 150 pounds, essentially the same size he's been since sixth grade. Back then he was the biggest kid in his class and a terror on the football field, convinced that his future lay in the NFL. He still plays on the school team, an offensive guard in a water boy's body. He gives 'em hell on special teams, but as a football prospect he makes a pretty good basketball analyst.
He's sitting in Spanish class at The Pennington School in Pennington, N.J., and his BlackBerry is blowing up. Word is out that 6'4" guard Rodney Purvis, a top 10 player from Raleigh, has reneged on his commitment to Louisville, and Alex needs to weigh in. He asks his teacher if he can use the bathroom, then ducks into a stall and shares the news with his followers. Alex started his Twitter account and website the previous spring, at the end of his sophomore year, and since then some of his teachers have come to believe that he has a bladder problem.
The Twitter account has become a favorite. Alex loves checking how many followers he's added. "I don't know why, but that's exciting to me," he says. Maybe that's why he's up every morning at 5:30 or 6:00, getting ready for school and working up content.
Once he gets to school, he's never offline for more than a few hours, and he spends almost all his free time pursuing information, calling and texting players and coaches. He attends tournaments and showcases, watching games and talking to everyone he can, sometimes spending 14 hours working the sideline. He's begun writing profiles and stories for other recruiting sites within the Rivals network, for which he gets paid, but he views it all as a very intense hobby.
Alex's success has come with some criticism—claims that he doesn't see enough games, uses others' information without crediting it, takes quotes off Facebook and makes them sound as if they're his own, and is a relentless self-promoter. Alex admits there's been a learning curve, but mostly he shrugs off the charges. He's not looking to become a sports reporter.
"It took me a long time to get over what I went through," he says, "but it slowly went away, and it made me who I am today. I figure if I can deal with that, I can deal with anything, including a little criticism from other writers."
Alex is 15. He's on the phone with Harrison Barnes, who's considered the top high school basketball player in the class of 2010. Barnes is being pursued by college basketball's sideline poster boys: Coach K, Roy Williams, Bill Self and, of course, John Calipari, who has recently moved from Memphis to Kentucky.
Alex asks if the Calipari move has any impact on Barnes's recruitment, and the 6'8" small forward from Ames, Iowa, speaks openly: "He's a good coach. I don't know if I like the way they're doing things there right now though. Seems like he left Memphis kind of in a bad situation, and then guys at Kentucky are getting their scholarships taken back. I don't know yet."
When Alex posts the interview, it goes viral, getting reposted on basketball sites across the country and even finding its way onto ESPN's website. Alex notes the spike in traffic and notoriety. He redoubles his efforts with high school players. Before long he's putting up video interviews with 6'2" point guard Kyrie Irving of West Orange, N.J., and 6'9" power forward Tristan Thompson of Brampton, Ont. (both first-round picks in the 2011 NBA draft) and a handful of others.
They are not famous yet, but at least some of them are millionaires in waiting, and it's possible to stand next to them and get a whiff of the money and fame that lie ahead. They're a down payment on an I-knew-them-when story. That, Alex thinks, is sort of exciting.