Spanning the globe: Senior Alexis Waters has gone from being adopted as a child in Russia to being a top-notch student-athlete at West Forsyth

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 20, 2024

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By Jay Spivey

For the Clemmons Courier

It’s almost human nature for some people to put a name with a face.
But in many instances, it may be harder than you think simply based on information not provided up front.
With that being said, it’s quite likely that the hardest core of West Forsyth sports fans have never heard of the name Irina Petrovna Fadeeva. And there’s a good reason for that. That’s because Fadeeva is now Alexis Waters, a 5-foot-10 small forward on the girls basketball team and track-and-field athlete for West Forsyth.
Waters was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, but her biological parents put her up for adoption. As is often the case, an American or Americans will attempt to adopt those children. That happened when Susan Waters decided to go through Carolina Adoption Services in Greensboro. According to Alexis Waters, Susan Waters made two trips to Russia and eventually came home with Alexis, who was 2 years old at the time.
“My (adoptive) mom came over with her parents, my (adoptive grandparents) to Russia, St. Petersburg, Russa,” Alexis said. “And she only said like a kid, a girl, a baby girl with like blue eyes and blonde hair. And so, they chose me. And then I think I was little bit young, so she had to go back to North Carolina and wait about like 6 months and then go back in August.”
Alexis Waters doesn’t have much recollection of those early years even after she had assimilated in American culture and was a student at Salem Baptist.
“It was in the first grade,” she said. “A sub came in and a teacher was talking and telling the sub about background, and I overheard them talking about me. And they were saying, ‘Oh, she’s from Russia.’ I was, ‘What?’”
Alexis Waters came up with enough courage to ask Susan Waters about it.
“She was like, ‘Yeah, you’re adopted,’” Alexis said.
Because she was at the tender age of 2, she doesn’t remember her biological parents or living in Russia.
“I would love to meet them to see what it would be like to meet my actual mom,” Alexis said. “…The mother in Russia, my mother, she was very young when she had me. And I heard she was living with her grandmother. I think, was kind of struggling, I believe.”
Alexis also said she has no way of remembering all that transpired in those early years in Russia. Now, she said doesn’t speak any Russian.
“I have pictures (when Susan came to get her),” Alexis said. “We try to like see if I remember. It’s a little hard to not remember anything.”
A child who has been through adoption could easily be mad at the situation. That’s not the case with Alexis.
“I think she wanted me to help me to a better life,” Alexis said. “I could be wrong, but (I think she) would want to see grow.”
Then, it was time to come up with a name once Alexis was adopted.
“I think my (adoptive) mom had a name and was like Alexis would be good,” Alexis said. “And Irina is my (adoptive) middle name, so she did keep like a little bit of my real name.”
Her first memories of being in America may explain why she played two sports at West Forsyth after transferring from Salem Baptist after her sophomore year.
“All I remember is being a very active kid — playing soccer and playing all these other sports,” Alexis said. “And I don’t really remember like the day like remember.”
Being an only child, Alexis and Susan have a strong bond. They’ve also had conversations about how Alexis wants to handle the possibility of going back to Russia to visit and maybe see her biological mother.
“We’ve talked about it a little bit,” Alexis said. “She doesn’t mind going.”
In addition, Alexis is torn because she knows that Susan has always been there for her.
“I know she’s been through a lot trying to get everything right and all the paperwork,” Alexis said. “But that’s one thing I really love about her is how she fought.”
There was also that matter of going from a small school like Salem Baptist kindergarten through her sophomore year,
“I was at Salem ever since I was like (in) kindergarten, so…,” Alexis said. “And then 10th grade was like the year of like, ‘Um, I kind of need a change.’ Just get a new environment. I’ve been there for a while.”
She transferred to West Forsyth after her sophomore year at Salem Baptist, which, in essence, made her a fish out of water.
“It was like a whole other world,” Alexis said. “Like just tons and tons of people — students. And it was very overwhelming the first few days, but it got a lot better when I made tons of friends, love the teachers there, made good friendships.”
In fifth grade, she made the middle-school girls basketball team at Salem Baptist, and she also ran cross-country and also played volleyball. In ninth- and 10th-grade she played volleyball and basketball. She fully intended to play basketball at West Forsyth, which she did her junior year, her first year there with Coach Catrina Green.
In 24 basketball games this past season for the Titans, Alexis averaged, according to, 5.2 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 1.7 steals per game.
“I always try my best,” she said. “I always give it my all every single game and try to be the best I know I can be.”
Alexis helped guide West Forsyth to an overall record of 13-11, ending her high-school basketball career. However, she plans on going to the University of North Carolina at Wilmington this fall.
“It was really sad because I’ve always been on the court all my life and then and now, I have to stop and not see some of those teammates when I start college,” she said. “But I do want to go play club ball at UNCW.”
Coach Nathan Newsome, the cross-country and track-and-field coach at West Forsyth, taught her in his art class the past two years, and he asked her about the possibility of trying out for the track-and-field team.
In Art II, Newsome said he asked his class to do a portrait on somebody they looked up to. Alexis chose to do hers on Giannis Antetokounmpo, the star basketball player for the Milwaukee Bucks of the NBA.
Not knowing she was a basketball player at the time, Newsome thought she might be a basketball fan. She eventually told Newsome that she was on the West Forsyth basketball team.
“I made it a point to come because I wanted to see (Alexis) play (basketball) because I hadn’t seen her play.,” Newsome said. “You know, art kids, I don’t necessarily get a lot of athletes for whatever reason. And I watched her play, and it was exactly kind of like I thought it would be in that she worked hard, she followed instructions, and was pretty effective.”
After teaching Alexis in class and seeing her play basketball Newsome also saw something else about her.
“She very humble. She wouldn’t toot her own horn on it, you know,” he said. “But I like to ask kids, ‘Are you good?’ You know, I like to see how they reply. And I don’t remember what her reply was. I don’t think it was, ‘Yeah, man. I’m great.’ I think it was like, ‘You know, I try hard.’ Or something along those lines.”
Newsome also found out that Alexis was adopted from Russia. And Newsome knows something about adoption about because his brother, Jacob, and Jacob’s wife, Bobbi, adopted three children — Owen, Maddie, and Lillie — from China.
“Once I found that out (about Alexis being adopted) I wonder if somehow that resonated with me more than normal because I just know how great of a thing it is for both the child and the parent,” Newsome said. “It’s very hard to quantify, it’s very hard to put into words how much it affects both parties positively.
“And you know, I think both of them feel just as lucky as they can be. In a lot of ways, I think that’s a very cool perspective to have.”
Newsome said he brought up Alexis Waters in conversation with Green when basketball had an outdoor workout on the track at Jerry Peoples Stadium.
“I knew that she played for (Green) and I had her in class,” Newsome said.  “And I was just curious, and I was, ‘What’s she like?’ But I essentially said, ‘Is she better than you’d think she’d be?’ She said, ‘Yeah. Yeah. She just tries really hard, she follows instructions. Maybe the right term is, yeah, she’s really coachable.”
Alexis declined last year because of her commitment to her AAU basketball team, the Winston-Salem Stealers.
“This year, (Newsome) asked me again, and I was like, ‘Oh, I’m not busy. So, I could totally join.’ But I told him I’m not a very fast runner. And he told me, ‘Oh, you’ll be throwing and stuff. And I said, ‘Oh, I’ll try it out.’”
Alexis just completed her senior season on the track-and-field team, competing in shot put, discus and triple jump.
“I’d seen her play basketball, so I knew that she had a certain amount of athletic ability,” Newsome said. “And then, she’s just tall. She’s probably at least 5-9, maybe 5-10. And I knew that she could follow instructions. I knew that I could tell her to do something, and usually that’s a field-event situation. And a lot of kids are just too impatient and aren’t willing to follow instructions.
“And I told her when she came out, I said, “I can you in about 5 minutes whether you’re going to be good at this or not.’”
Alexis remembers going on the track for the first time with Newsome.
“It was a very fun experience learning the technique and getting involved with another sport,” she said. “After a few practices (with the discus) I got used to it.”
Working with Alexis on discus the first day, Newsome said she threw it about 85 feet. He encouraged her to do discus.
“And we tried her in shot put and that’s more brute strength to start with,” Newsome said. “And she didn’t shine in that quite as much. And I thought, ‘Ooh, OK.’ And then started getting a little bit better in the shot put. And then one day we were over there triple-jumping and I was having everybody try out because we were looking for jumpers.
“And the triple-jump area was right there beside the discus cage, and I think she said, ‘Can I try?’ And I said, ‘Well, yeah.’ And I said, ‘You do.’”
Competing in triple-jump was just a matter of following instructions for Alexis. In April, West Forsyth competed in the Carolina Distance Carnival at Weddington High School. Alexis, according to, finished eighth in the triple jump at 27-4.75, and in the discus, she finished 22nd at 54-2.
“It can be a handful sometimes because there’s one event going and then shot put could be doing something else,” she said. “And I’m like, ‘Oh, my goodness.’ So, I like have to balance because some track meets, I would have to miss like triple jump, and then just do shot put and discus.”
Her career as an athlete is over at West Forsyth.
“It’s one of those deals that, and she told me, she said, ‘I wished I had tried it last year, too,” Newsome said. “And you know, none of us can turn back the clock. I’m thankful she was able to try it because at least she’ll have these experiences, you know, and to reflect on and there will be positive memories as far as that goes. And maybe down the road when new activities have the opportunity to present themselves it’ll make her a lit bit more readily to try something even if it feels out of her comfort zone.”
 Alexis also has had a good relationship with Green as a coach, but she’s missed not having a father figure in her life. She said Newsome and Brian Robinson, her coach with the Stealers and the head girls basketball coach at Bishop McGuinness, are like that for her.
“Coach Newsome has seen me like try my hardest and wanting to see me improve my art skills and track,” she said. “And then Coach R, he’s always a really caring coach that wants to see the best that I can do.”
There is also the fact that Alexis will make the 225-mile trek in August to go to college at UNCW where she hopes to major in physical therapy. That means she will be away from Susan Waters.
“I’m super grateful for all she has done and all that she has given me,” Alexis said. “She gave me life that I don’t deserve. It’s just anyone could’ve adopted me, right? I could be in another family that I probably wouldn’t like, but I got her and it’s been such a good experience with her.”