It’s been a whirlwind year for the women’s basketball program. From the top down, the Colonials have been in transition mode – adjusting to new coaches while making the normal shifts that come when welcoming new teammates.
Graduate student forward Lexi Martins is one of those newcomers, and she joins the program during a transition period in her own life, too, after her decision to graduate early from Lehigh University landed her in D.C.
Luckily for the Colonials, Martins not only brings impressive rebounding skills – something GW needed in the wake of star forward Jonquel Jones’ graduation last spring – but also adds versatility and experience to the team’s offense.
“I didn’t bring Lexi in to take JJ’s spot,” Rizzotti said. “I think Kelli Prange is prepared to fill in a role where we can still continue to spread the floor with her shooting ability the way JJ did. Then you bring in Lexi [Martins]. She’s got some experience and some intelligence, and she knows how to play within a good offensive system, so she kind of fits our offense a little bit better than maybe some of the other guys.”
The political science major played at Lehigh for three years, and her departure is sure to leave a hole in their women’s basketball program. During her career at Lehigh, Martins amassed 421 rebounds and more than 1,000 points.
The powerhouse on the glass ranked third in the nation with an average of 13.6 boards per game. Last year, Jones led NCAA Division I women’s basketball with an average of 14.6 rebounds per game.
A native of Irvington, NY, Martins had offers to play at Seton Hall, University of Florida and Drexel, among other universities. She said she chose to attend GW because it gave her the chance to play high-level basketball while completing a master’s degree in health administration at the Milken Institute School of Public Health.
Admittedly, Martins didn’t plan on ending up at GW, after former head coach Jonathan Tsipis’ departure last spring left Martins unsure of the future the program.
“I had always known about GW when I decided to get my release, but when Coach Tsipis decided to leave, I thought it was off the table because they didn’t have a coach,” Martins said.
But when Rizzotti was named head coach in the spring, Martins was hopeful about joining the reigning Atlantic 10 Champions. In a play of fate, Rizzotti had also tried to recruit Martins out of high school to play for her at Hartford College.
“It was awesome that Rizzotti got the job because I had known of her before, and contacts from home knew of her, so I already knew the program,” Martins said. “The women’s basketball program has a strong reputation, and she did as well, so I assumed that would make a really good fit.”
Martins brings her extreme basketball prowess to the Smith Center this season, as well as a deep knowledge of the game that only comes with experience.
“The GW women’s basketball team, they’ve really established a winning culture, so I’m really excited to just be a part of that,” Martins said. “I’m hoping to use the game experience that I had in the past and put that toward whatever my role turns out to be this year.”
Using her “strong basketball IQ,” Martins has easily adjusted to the quicker pace and higher level of A-10 basketball.
“I hope for me, personally, I can use my game and playing experience from the last three years to do anything that’s needed of me in this year of playing,” Martins said.
For most, transferring to a new program as a graduate student would seem daunting, but Martins said she has already put down roots with the team.
“I feel like I’ve really grown some good friendships already,” Martins said. “I’m really excited to start playing games with these girls and hopefully winning some games and experiencing that exciting feeling of playing on a high level basketball team,” Martins said.
Due to NCAA eligibility rules, Martins only has one season with the Colonials. Although her time with the women’s basketball program is short, Martins said she doesn’t plan on leaving the campus completely.
“Even though I won’t be playing, I’ll still be doing my second year of school so I’ll constantly want to be around because even though my playing career is over, I’ll always love basketball,” Martins said. “I just want them to know that I’m somebody who would always be there for them.”