Sophomore guard Lexie Nelson brings a whole new meaning to the term “gym rat” and with a certain work ethic instilled as a young kid, it is no surprise she is the leading scorer on the team this season and one of the best in the Big Sky
By Fedor Gaponenko, EWU Sports Information
Sophomore guard Lexie Nelson of the Eastern Washington University women’s basketball team was raised by a family who supported her passion for basketball and drove her to be the best she can be. Not to mention, literally driving to watch every single game she’s ever played.
As a young kid growing up in Butte, Mont., it wasn’t uncommon for Nelson and her mother to get up early before school and practice shooting.
After graduating from Butte High School as the all-time leading scorer in Bulldogs history, it didn’t take long for Nelson to become a leading scorer at the collegiate level as well.
Just a sophomore, the transfer from Montana is currently the only Eagle averaging double digits at 14.6 points per game. Nelson, who has started all 15 games for EWU this year, ranks third overall in the Big Sky. She is also one of the top 10 3-point shooters in the league - one of the main areas Nelson committed to improving during the offseason.
Along with being raised with a hard-working mentality, Nelson is also motivated by her love of the game and a stern distaste for losing.
After enjoying a five-game winning streak earlier in the year, Nelson and the EWU women’s basketball team is currently in the midst of a three-game losing skid. But Nelson said that the team isn’t panicking, and has all intentions of turning it around this weekend when it hosts Big Sky newcomer North Dakota on Thursday (Jan. 17) at Reese Court and Northern Colorado on Saturday (Jan. 19).
You have earned a reputation as one of the hardest working players the coaching staff has ever seen. What motivates and drives you to work so hard?
“I really love the game of basketball and I really like to win. I hate the feeling of losing and I don’t want it to happen. To win, I need to put in the time and the work. Also, my parents raised me with a mentality that you get what you earn.”
Outside of the 20 hours you are permitted by the NCAA, how much time do you personally put in during the week?
“It’s hard to have a set schedule because of games and traveling, so it fluctuates a lot during the basketball season. But in the offseason, I try to get in at least five times a week. But it’s usually more like six or seven times a week. A lot of it also depends on how my body is feeling. Sometimes I’m not feeling great, so I’ll cut a workout short, while other times, I may work out longer. I aim for 300-400 shots in a workout - 100 made 3s, 100 free throws, 50 mid-range jumpers, 25 dribble jumpers and 25 stepbacks.”
What parts of your game are you trying to polish when you spend all that time in the gym?
"I do a lot of shooting. Last year, I worked a lot on my 3-point shot, but I am always continuing to work on my shot to make my release quicker and more efficient. I’m also working on my offensive and defensive awareness. A lot of that isn’t in the gym, but more watching film and working with coaches. I’m just trying to be a student of the game."
Your parents, who still live and work in Butte, travel to every single game of yours, whether it’s here in Cheney, in the Bay Area of California or down in Arizona. Talk about that support from your family back in Montana and what influence it’s played in your career?
"My parents haven’t missed a game yet, since as far back as I can remember, even through high school and before then. I definitely wouldn’t be the person or basketball player I am now without them. They’ve put in as many hours as I have. When I was back home, we would get up early in the morning and my mom would be there rebounding for me and my dad as well. They put me through workouts and have always been there. It’s been great to have their support."
You transferred from Montana, and this is your first official season on the court as an Eagle. You are already the leading scorer on the team…how were able you adjust to a new system?
"I had a whole year last year to adjust during my redshirt season. It was kind of hard not being able to be out there on the court, but it was good for me. I had a lot of help from my teammates. They were there whenever I had questions. I know getting to watch Chene Cooper play point guard was a big advantage for me. We worked out together and she has helped me quite a bit. Also, I have a really good relationship with the coaches. Their door is always open to talk and I have learned a lot from them."
Being from Montana and starting your career with the Lady Griz, what is it like now playing with a different Big Sky team?
"Growing up, I was a Griz fan when I was younger, so I definitely didn’t see this kind of change coming. But it’s definitely a move I’m glad I made. I had a great opportunity to play in Montana, but it was in my best interest to come play here at Eastern. I am happy to be where I am now, and I’m thankful Coach Schuller and the program gave me an opportunity to play here."
What are some of your personal and team goals with the Eagles?
"Definitely the major goal is to win our conference, win the tournament and go on to the NCAA tournament. And not stop there by any means, we want to go as far as we can. But that’s the big goal for all of us. We know we need to take it one game at a time. Personally, I just want to win. So, whatever I can do to contribute to the team’s success is what I’m going to do."
What is your favorite part about playing college basketball?
"Winning, it’s just a great feeling. Not only winning though, but also the relationships I’m building with my teammates and friends."
Last month, the team won five games in a row, but have now lost the last three. What does the team need to do to get back on the winning track?
"We are going through a bit of a rough patch, but it happens. The Big Sky is a tough conference. I feel like all the teams are pretty even. There is not a clear-cut favorite or anyone at the bottom. It’s going to be a battle every game. I love my teammates. I think we’re very close and have great chemistry. I think we will re-focus. We had a rough road trip, but we aren’t panicking. All we can do is learn from those losses and move forward. We’re going to have good practices and we’ll be ready to go come Thursday."
After you graduate, what do you want to do with your exercise science degree?
"I want to play basketball for as long as I can. Right now, I’m just focusing on my school work and our season. I would love an opportunity to play overseas - that’s been a dream of mine. After I’m done playing basketball, I want to pursue coaching or training - something that keeps me around sports."