As an athlete, Lexi Windwer wouldn’t describe herself as the most agile player on the court, and, at 5-foot-6, she isn’t the tallest, either.
But the new addition to the women’s basketball team knows there’s more to athletic success than natural speed and size – it’s about working hard, playing smart and bringing the intensity.
“I’m not the quickest player, so I have to think of other ways to make up for it,” Windwer said. “I’m more of an offensive threat than a defensive threat, so I’ve been working on my defensive skills. There are always things to improve on.”
The freshman learned her shot and her strategy from her father, Steve, who was a big influence when she first started playing. Though Windwer first picked up a basketball at 4-years-old, she started playing more seriously in travel leagues in second grade, following in the footsteps of her older sister, who is currently playing in her final basketball season at Salve Regina (Newport, R.I.).
“[Basketball] is kind of a family thing,” the shooting guard said. “My dad’s always been into basketball. I really take after shooting from him. He’s always been my coach, through all of my teams. A lot of people are hesitant to have parents as a coach, but I benefited from it.”
Windwer’s father was her assistant coach at Thayer Academy in Braintree, Mass., where he now coaches her younger brother, who is a junior. In her four-year career at the prep school, Windwer was a thousand-point scorer and three-time All-Scholastic player who led her team to the post-season three years in a row.
But basketball isn’t the only thing Windwer and her father have in common. Windwer, a Physical Therapy major, said that her interest in her major grew from the time she spent hanging around in the office where her father, a physical therapist himself, worked.
“I love the fact that his profession can heal others,” Windwer said. “And, in the sports way, you can help with athletes, which I like.”
When the time came to choose a college, Springfield seemed like a perfect match. The college had a basketball team, a great Physical Therapy program, and was less than a two-hour drive from Windwer’s home in Milton, Mass.
Last semester, Windwer juggled an eight-class, 18-credit course load, as well as pick-up basketball four days a week and lift and conditioning sessions, both of which were held twice a week.
“It was kind of a jam-packed schedule,” Windwer said. “You definitely have to figure out a time to get stuff done, whether it’s a big block of time or a little block of time. But it was good to get in the swing of things early.”
According to teammate Jaimie Bickelhaupt, Windwer’s transition onto a collegiate court was much easier.
“When Lexi came in to play pick-up, she was just a straight shooter,” the team captain said. “She wasn’t nervous to shoot and play with us. It is intimidating for freshmen to come in and start playing with these kids who have been playing for two or three years already in college, but she meshed well right off the bat.”
Bickelhaupt described her teammate as an intense player whose confidence has allowed her to step up and make an impact this season.
“[Windwer] sets up for her shot very well,” Bickelhaupt said, “and she gives us post players some good passes. She relocates to look for her shot if we get double-teamed.”
And while confidence on the court helps in game-time situations, it is Windwer’s willingness to listen to the advice of her coaches that really gives her the edge.
“Lexi takes constructive criticism from our coaches really well,” Bickelhaupt said. “She’s really taken what they’ve told her as feedback to heart. She goes out and shoots on her own, a couple times before games or just before practice. She’s really improving, and she hasn’t stopped yet.”
On the team, Windwer ranks third in minutes played this season. She has the third-highest point total, tallying 142 points over 20 games, and is the team’s top shooting guard.
It also doesn’t hurt that Windwer is a fresh face in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference.
“No one knows about [Windwer] yet,” Bickelhaupt said. “[Other teams] don’t know how to stop her yet because they haven’t seen her play that much….for a freshman to come in and make an impact like that, it helps us out a lot.”
But it hasn’t been easy. College, as Windwer noted, is a whole different level than high school.
“People are smarter on the floor,” she said. “They know more about the game. In high school, you play a team where maybe one or two of their players are playing basketball. I think of college more as an AAU team because every team you played was either going to DI, DII, or DIII. Everyone was trying to play some division of basketball.”
Despite the growing pains, Windwer, along with the five other freshmen added to coach Naomi Graves’ squad this season, have helped the Pride to double their win total from last season. Last year, the team went 4-20. It is currently 11-9.
Graves, who first saw Windwer play on an AAU team her junior year in high school, described her player as having a solid basketball IQ, and, more importantly, a tremendous work ethic and passion that epitomizes the student-athlete, both in the classroom and on the court.
“She’s worked really hard to fight for the starting position,” Graves said, “And she’s done a really nice job of accommodating her game to the college game. She’s doing some really great things for us.”
Graves went on to describe how Windwer has become a more complete player. Besides practicing her shot, she also works on rebounding and taking the ball off the dribble.
Windwer herself said she focuses on reading the different situations that occur during games and tries to motivate teammates who she feels might need a boost. This positive attitude and overall love of the game are just a couple of the things about her that impress Graves.
“[Windwer] has a really strong intensity to be good,” Graves said. “She has the intensity and passion to be better than who she is today.”
Alanna Grady can be reached at email@example.com