Insatiable desire to improve fuels Herriman’s star point guard
May 04, 2020 01:39PM
By Travis Barton
As the point guard, Lexi found herself in a leadership position this season, something that will continue next year as she was elected a student body officer. (Travis Barton/City Journals)
By Travis Barton | [email protected]
Editor’s note: with spring sports being shut down, the City Journals is looking back at athletes who achieved great accomplishments throughout the school year.
A few weeks into schools’ soft closure, it snowed, leaving a few inches in Lexi Jensen’s backyard. More importantly, it snowed on the basketball court.
Her mother, Lyndsay Jensen, looked out the window to see Lexi shoveling snow off the court.
It might be the best way to describe Lexi and her love for basketball.
“I've always said this about Lexi, when she has a goal in mind and she has something she wants to work toward, she's very disciplined,” Lyndsay said.
Her dedication and work ethic, combined with a healthy dose of talent, are what sets apart the Herriman sophomore.
Named second team All-State and the only sophomore on the competitive Region 3 first team, Jensen has made a name for herself in just two short years on the high school basketball scene.
The point guard led her team in scoring and racked up over three steals a game.
“She has a high basketball IQ, very high understanding of what needs to be done and where her opportunities are on both offense and defense to be successful,” said Herriman High girls head coach Kent Smith.
After a freshman season that saw her come off the bench and play meaningful minutes, Smith knew Lexi would improve but maybe not to this extent.
“I knew she would be a lot better, but I didn't know that she would be one of the best players in the state,” Smith said.
It was her work off the court, or outside of practice, that make it possible.
For the past 18 months, she participates weekly in the Complete Shooter program where she works on different ways of scoring and shooting technique among other things. And it appears to have helped.
“She’s an elite shooter,” Smith said. “She shot 45% from the three-point line as a sophomore in high school, which is just amazing.”
During the school closures and home isolation, Lyndsay said Lexi wakes up, gets her schoolwork done and then goes straight into her workouts—running, lifting, skills work.
“She spends so much time outside every day, shooting, whether it's free throws or working on left-handed layups, dribbling drills. I'm constantly rebounding for her three-pointers,” Lyndsay said. “There are certain spots around the arc she has to make before she'll be done. She's very dedicated in the amount of time she puts in out there every single day. I'm not joking, it's every day.”
For Lexi, she just wants to get better every day.
“I just want to be at my top-notch level that I can be at to try and be the best in the state,” Lexi said. “My dedication to the sport and working on my game on all different levels, that really helps me get to where I need to be.”
Some of that work involves dribbling drills, whether it’s with both hands or dribbling while tossing a racquetball in the air with the other. She even has a “move of the day” she works on and posts to her basketball Instagram account.
“She has extreme ball-handling skills,” Smith said. “She does amazing workouts with two basketballs often. Her handling of the basketball is just great.”
That work ethic extends to the mental aspect as well. Jensen said she’s always trying to learn more about the game like how to move off the ball to get her or a teammate open.
She regularly goes to local Division 1 basketball games. She watches YouTube videos of Steph Curry moving without the ball. This past season, she would watch film of a game two or three times. Often, after finishing her math homework in class, she’d even watch film with her math teacher, Jonathan Haag, who was also the assistant coach.
“She’s just a sponge,” Smith said.
Mentally, Jensen said she used to struggle allowing mistakes to bug her or rattle around her brain. “I just learned that if you want to be a good basketball player, your mind’s got to be right. If I miss a shot, I'm going to make the next one, and I just have to keep that mentality. If I miss one shot, it won't affect my whole game.”
That mentality also led to one of the more memorable moments of the season: a 15-point third quarter (13 of which came from Jensen) against Bingham to inspire a historic road win.
In a tight first half, none of Jensen’s shots were falling. But on the first possession of the third quarter, Jensen found a little space in the corner to nail a three-pointer. After that she just let it fly, outscoring the Miners by herself in the quarter.
“That was the difference in getting us our first win over there at Bingham,” Smith said.
“It was just a thing of keeping my head up and not letting me get down on myself,” Jensen said.
It was the 46-39 preseason victory over East that really stands out to Jensen. Having lost at home by 30 the year before, the Mustangs returned the favor defeating the Leopards in their gym.
“That was really cool to see … coming together as a team and the next season beating them on their home court,” she said. “That was a standout moment to me; it was awesome.”
When she was younger, Jensen played other sports. She played soccer and softball. She still does track to help with her speed.
But for Jensen, basketball just stuck because there’s always something to be better at.
“There’s just so many different things to the game; you're never bored,” she said
As a child, Jensen was intense with endless energy, Lyndsay said. So as an outlet, they tried putting her in taekwondo, noting the effect it had on her balance, focus and discipline.
“I think starting at a really young age,” Lyndsay said. “She just was constantly working on both hands, right hand, left hand in perfecting her skills with taekwondo, and I think it carried over into her basketball and ball-handling.”
Jensen earned her black belt at age 8, adding she thinks it made her more aggressive and not scared of contact on the court.
What comes next
Jensen hopes to play Division 1 basketball in college, somewhere in Utah (BYU is her top choice where her two biggest influences played—Ashley Garfield and Lexi Eaton). But first she has two years at Herriman left.
The Mustangs finished their season 17-6, falling in the quarterfinals to Fremont. Of the teams to reach the final four—Fremont, Bingham, Copper Hills and Skyridge—Herriman went 4-3 on the year against them.
After the playoff loss, Smith heard from Jensen three times the next two days asking what she needed to do to ensure a deeper playoff run next year.
“I can't wait to see how good she gets and blessed that's she's a part of our team,” Smith said.
With Brianna Dow returning and a new transfer from Kansas who wasn’t eligible this year, Amy Mitchell, Jensen has high hopes for the team next year.
“I'm expecting really big things for us,” she said. “Region champs for sure and then going for state champs. I think we can make that happen.”