Rewind the clocks. It’s April 1, 2018, and the world just witnessed an unforgettable moment in women’s college basketball history once again. Notre Dame’s star guard, Arike Ogunbowale, drained a go-ahead corner shot for the win with only seconds left in the championship game to claim the title for her decorated program.
The moment the shot fell in I, and most of those around me, flew around the room in excitement over what we had just watched. Except for one of us. Alex Grant sat there quietly.
“You’ll always be a champion and have the ring to show for it,” I said to him. “Yeah, just not the defending champs,” he responded to me with a laugh and a smirk as he glanced down at his 2017 Tournament Championship ring.
For most, this was March Madness as usual, but for South Carolina Gamecock Athletics’ production manager, Alex Grant, this marked an important moment. It was his chance to stand on the outside again. A time to appreciate the year he had just experienced.
You don’t have to search far across the state of South Carolina to find exhilarating stories about the historic year, 2017, for the University of South Carolina’s collegiate basketball program. The men’s basketball team managed to shock the nation by progressing all the way to a Final Four appearance in the NCAA 2017 Tournament. As if that wasn’t enough to send shockwaves of excitement through the state, the women’s basketball team capped off a magical run in the Women’s NCAA 2017 Tournament with a championship title led by head coach Dawn Staley and the 2017 Women’s Final Four Most Outstanding Player award winner, A’ja Wilson. During this amazing season, everything from weekly game highlights to short and amusing clips of the team celebrating a big win became coveted content in high demand.
Enter: Alex Montgomery Grant. A 24-year-old charismatic native of Columbia, South Carolina, catching high impact moments on his camera consistently and filling the wants and needs of the public, state and nation-wide, through the use of his keen eye and knack for being in the right place during the big moments. I had a chance to speak with him about his experiences so far and watch the aforementioned 2018 NCAA Women’s Championship game. I asked him to speak about how it all started, and we went from there.
When Alex Grant graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2016, he knew his passion was to produce the news. While he worked on this early in his professional career, one of his personal goals was to establish himself as a leader when it came to the coverage of significant events and happenings throughout the year.
However, even he couldn’t have imagined that his early success would come through Gamecock Productions in the way that it did. Beginning with an early start as an undergrad, Alex Grant became a production assistant in the summer of 2013, when he began aiding the Gamecock Athletics department in running their social media pages and creating different forms of video content. No job was out of his range as he did everything from hype videos and highlights for the videoboard in Williams-Brice Stadium to recording interviews and taking photos at team photoshoots.
“Everything I did with Gamecock Athletics, the journalism school and in my internships gave me experience in front of the camera and behind it, but I wasn’t sure what specific direction to take,” he said as we ate and continued to speak.
However, during those three years leading to his graduation, Alex Grant’s personable character allowed him to build relationships with the top athletes and biggest coaches in the athletics department, including Dawn Staley, a fact that became extremely significant for him. The women’s basketball team was trending in an upward direction as he continued to progress in his position as production assistant. During the same time period, a freshman standout by the name of A’ja Wilson arrived at the university. As the women’s basketball team solidified themselves in the SEC conference and in the nation, Alex continued to solidify himself as a trustworthy and more than capable member of the Gamecock Athletics production team, and in January 2017, he was promoted to his current position as production manager.
Sooner rather than later, Alex Grant was traveling with the women’s basketball team on every trip. During their amazing championship season, the public as well as other media outlets found countless moments big and small worth sharing coming from Gamecock Productions, and Alex played an instrumental role in capturing them.
As we look back on them now, we appreciate those moments like never before, but often only take into account the highlights themselves. Rarely do people stop to appreciate the fact that the production team was in the right place at the right time to capture a moment that gives us access to the most compelling or emphatic moments of pain and success during a championship run.
That skill has to be focused on daily, Grant expressed. “Yes, the moment may be big or historic, but my mindset has to be focused on specific questions. Where do I need to be? Who is priority? What do I need to shoot that no other camera will think to shoot?” Prioritizing can become a huge deal when occasionally head coach Dawn Staley shouts you out on Twitter for catching her “good side.”
I asked what that must be like to receive such acknowledgments from someone like Coach Staley. “That’s always fun,” he exclaimed. “On one hand, we’re both professionals working to get the job done, but on the other, she’s a three-time Olympic Gold Medalist, Coach of Team USA, and now NCAA champion head coach, and it feels amazing. Coach Staley treats everyone on the staff like family, so it’s truly rewarding to hear her comment positively on the things I produce.”
Through consistent practice, real-time experience and a splash of natural ability and skill, Alex Grant has managed to give some of the most memorable clips and shots of the moments that will always be special to South Carolina basketball family, friends and fans — not to mention the NCAA. But in spite of the recognition and accomplishment that Grant feels from seeing his footage featured, knowing thousands if not millions have seen some of them, nobody has a closer connection with the content than he does. “When your job is to capture the moment, it’s hard to experience the moment, so those are my memories. The fans saw the national championship through my eyes and that will always be special.”
And that brings us back from the summer of 2013 where a young kid was dreaming and a basketball program was elevating itself towards the rafters to lift a banner that will not soon be forgotten. It also causes one to re-think the scene of Alex Grant, still sitting with his eyes on the television as the confetti swarmed the court the evening of April 1st, and Notre Dame screamed in celebration of winning a title. It was a moment worth recording, but this time it wouldn’t be South Carolina’s hard-working video team’s production manager. This time, he could take it all in.