Lexi Martins is no stranger to big-time performances. Before transferring to GW, she engraved her name in the Lehigh record books as the program’s top single-season rebounder and its 18th 1,000-point scorer.
Now, in her first and only year as a Colonial, Martins has found another gear in Atlantic 10 play and has been a integral part of women’s basketball’s 6-1 start against conference opponents.
As of her dominant 25-point, 10-rebound performance against Massachusetts Saturday afternoon, Martins’ leads the team with 15.4 points and 10.6 rebounds per game in A-10 play.
She was recognized by the A-10 as Women’s Basketball Player of the Week for her standout performance in two games against George Mason and Davidson. Martins’ big month of January has now included double-doubles in seven consecutive games.
Her recent success has been a major reason why GW has not missed a step without starting center Caira Washington, who missed the last two games with a sprained wrist.
“With Caira being out, it’s obviously a huge loss for our team, she was our best player,” Martins said. “I’m looking to take shots when I’m open, and making sure to really try and focus in on defensive rebounds, and just trying to focus more on defense because she’s such a defensive presence for us.”
There is little question that Martins possesses the physical attributes and athleticism to succeed at any level of Division I basketball. But her continued success under the direction of head coach Jennifer Rizzotti has been not just due to her athleticism, but to her acumen on and off the court, Rizzotti said.
“She understands she came to GW one to get her master’s but two to play for a winning program,” Rizzotti said. “She’s just somebody that wants to win, and her maturity and her intelligence has really been an asset to us this whole season.”
Martins, a graduate student in the Milken Institute School of Public Health, said she chose to transfer to GW over other major programs, such as Florida and Seton Hall, partly because of familiarity with Rizzotti, who recruited her out of high school. A cerebral player during her time at UConn, Rizzotti was an ideal fit to coach the 2016 Patriot League Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
“The best thing about her is, as soon as I address [a mistake] and as soon as I tell her, ‘Hey, that wasn’t the right play,’ she immediately adjusts and makes the right play on the next possession,” Rizzotti praised. “So she really is coachable, she understands what she needs to do and she’s a fighter.”
Despite moving to a more competitive conference and having to adjust to a new offensive system, Martins has still managed to improve her statistical output this season – a tall task considering her record-setting junior year at Lehigh.
“The league is more competitive, and the players are faster and stronger,” Martins said following a 14-point, 10-rebound performance against Davidson. “It’s just about getting used to the difference in the competition, but I’ve really enjoyed it thus far.”
Last season, in Patriot League conference play while at Lehigh, Martins posted 19.6 points and 16.4 rebounds per 40 minutes. Through seven conference games as a Colonial, Martins has elevated her game, posting per 40-minute numbers of 22.1 points and 15.4 boards.
“It’s definitely more athletic basketball [in the A-10],” Martins said. “In the Patriot League, you’re trying to out-think your opponents, but in the A-10 it’s more about outplaying them.”
Martins has made her presence known not only by scoring and rebounding, but also because of her mature understanding of the game and her role as a vocal leader to some of the younger players on the roster, despite being a newcomer herself.
Sophomore Mei-Lyn Bautista said Martins plays her part on the court by being “one of the smartest basketball players.”
“To have a guy like that, who can talk with me as a point guard, makes my job a lot easier. To have a post who can communicate and talk and make sure everyone’s in their positions on the floor just makes everything a lot easier for me,” Bautista said.