A pick-up game is never just a pick-up game. Usually, it’s a grind to 21 and means more than a win.
It can also mean bragging rights over your siblings. For the Markowski family, this is more than true.
“Only the Markowski’s would be keeping score in a fake game,” said Andy Markowski.
In Nebraska basketball history, the lore of the Markowski name runs deep. Andy, an Ord, Neb. native and father of four, played collegiately at Nebraska.
A two-year starter, he was one of the top in-state players that have gone through the program. At NU, Markowski played in 124 career games, finishing his career fifth on the all-time games played list. He finished his career on a streak of 96 consecutive games played.
But, now, the Markowski name doesn’t end with Andy.
Sisters Alexis and Adison are both members of the reigning Class A state champion Pius X girls basketball team. In the fall, the oldest of four siblings, Alexis will follow in her dad’s footsteps and begin her career playing for Amy Williams and the women’s Cornhusker basketball team.
For the Markowski’s, it is clear that sports are a lifestyle. The family spends the majority of their time in a gym coaching, playing, or watching sporting events.
All the Markowski kids play sports, but the one that brings them all together is basketball.
Alexis and sophomore Adison play together at Pius X. Their younger sister Ava plays for the Nebraska Lasers, and the youngest, Jake, plays for Lincoln Thunder Supreme.
It seems that the Markowski children were born competitive, and this is certainly still true today.
“At home we can’t play cards without having to take out the first aid kit, everything we do is competitive,” Andy said.
But, in 2020, sports looked completely different.
In March, Nebraska held their girls and boys state basketball tournaments at the Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln. At the same time the COVID-19 pandemic was sweeping across the country, Nebraska was one of the last states that still held state basketball tournaments.
Despite other states canceling state tournaments, the Nebraska School Activities Association carried on — the last game in the country at the time was the Millard North and Bellevue West boys title game. ESPN wanted to cover it and Andy was doing color commentary on TV.
A week earlier he was an assistant on the Pius bench as Alexis and Adison helped the Bolts to the school’s fourth state title.
“For us, the girls won a state title, if they had played not even a week later, it would’ve all been different… No fans and no students watching you play,” Andy said. “Playing when we did and capping it off with a win was about the only good thing to come out of 2020.”
The 2020-21 basketball season has looked completely different for the Markowski sisters. There is no longer a home court advantage, no fans, no students, and many sacrifices.
“It sucks, but we’re just excited that we’re back and happy to be playing,” Alexis said. “We would love to have fans but if that’s a sacrifice you have to make to play with each other, we will make that sacrifice,”
Adison echoed her older sister.
“We have to find ways to create our own energy on the court and find ways to hype each other up,” the sophomore said.
Alexis mentioned that it was hard to not be able to have fans and be a fan herself. In the past she really enjoyed attending the boy’s games, many of her classmates on are the Thunderbolts varsity boys team and are good friends. But just like the girls, she said if they were out there playing on the court, representing Pius, the boys were happy.
In a few short months Alexis will begin her collegiate career and play for her hometown team. Never in her wildest dreams did Alexis think that someday she would be playing at Nebraska.
She recalled going to games with her family and especially loved seeing her dad return for alumni events. Alexis hopes to carry on the Markowski name. She understands the weight it holds and the honors that have come before her.
“I hope to be half the player he was in college,” she said.
Playing alongside Alexis, Adison has had an incredible time watching her older sister’s success. With Alexis’ dominant scoring presence on the floor, Adison says that any time they are on the floor together it is so natural to just throw it up to Alexis and the ball will always find its way through the net.
The two sisters have played sports together since as long as they can remember, and fondly recall their days on the same micro soccer team.
It is clear that they have an easy time getting along.
“We used to fight a lot, but we’ve grown to really love playing together,” Alexis said. “Honestly, there is no one I would rather play alongside than Adison. She is my support; she is my hype girl. We are always competitive but, on the court, we know we have each other’s backs.”
With 2020 in the rear-view mirror, the Markowski family has an extremely positive outlook on 2021. The goals were obvious for all: another state title.
For Alexis, it would be her second state basketball title to go along with a state title in volleyball. A second state title for Adison will mean two titles in two years, a dominant run with two years of high school remaining.
Ava’s number one goal in 2021 is to get better as a player and ultimately beat Adison in a game of one-on-one. Much like Ava, the youngest Markowski sibling, Jake wanted to grow as a shooter but his top goal for 2021 is to beat Alexis in one-on-one before she hits campus in the fall.
In the Markowski family, basketball is more than a game, it is a way of life. It’s in their blood and they all intend to prove that. But, for now, the Markowski’s will take it one step at a time, playing their pick-up games and defending their bragging rights.