Published Tue, Feb 26, 2013 3:36 pm Dateline
At the tender age of 5, a young girl began playing basketball on a toy basketball hoop in Hattiesburg, Miss. 14 years later, Lexie Baldwin finds herself doing what she has always dreamed about — playing college basketball.
“I think it’s every child’s dream to be here,” Baldwin said. “It’s a blessing.”
While Baldwin found time to fish, hunt and ride four-wheelers growing up, the 6-foot-1 freshman grew up in a family that encouraged her to keep playing basketball through her days at Hattiesburg High School and supported her decision to travel 850 miles north to play ball in Athens.
While many freshmen stray away from the prospect of traveling so far for school, Baldwin embraced the change.
“It’s different being far from home, (you have to) step out and be brave,” Baldwin said.
Baldwin averaged 9.0 points and 8.4 rebounds a game in high school while also leading her team to two state finals appearances, but it’s easy to say that she is not the most decorated player in her own family. Baldwin’s Cousin Ruthie Bolton is a 2-time Olympic Gold medalist and former WNBA player.
“(Bolton) is very inspiring,” Baldwin said. “Being around her is motivation to be like her, or possibly to be better.”
With injuries to several starters, Baldwin has had ample opportunity to improve her game. She has played an average of 19.6 minutes per game, racking up 5.6 points and 5.8 rebounds per contest.
“(Kiyanna Black) and I had to come in and step up,” Baldwin said. “We step out onto the court and give it all we have.”
Assistant coach Patricia Charity acknowledged that the transition from high school to Division I play has been a learning experience for Baldwin, but Charity has seen improvements in the freshman’s game.
“She runs the floor very well … (Baldwin) can run the floor like a deer when she wants to,’ Charity said.
The first-year assistant coach sees potential in Baldwin, but she wants to focus on making the Hattiesburg native into a more physical post player.
“It’s so physical (in the paint,) you have to be able to get in there,” Charity said. “That’s not really Lexie’s forte at this time, so it’s something that we have to work on.”
Baldwin also aspires to become a better post-up player in future years while continuing to rebound the ball consistently on both ends of the floor.
“I have to keep adjusting (to college play) and continue to move forward with my game,” Baldwin said.
Baldwin has shown flashes of greatness during various points in the season, including a 14 point, 13 rebound performance in a victory against LIU-Brooklyn.
When battling against bigger players in the post, Baldwin said that her energy is her biggest asset in getting to the bucket.
“Coach always tells me to use (my athleticism.) There are some pretty big girls in the MAC,” Baldwin said. “Playing against them is going to help me out a lot.”
While the season has not gone the way Baldwin and her teammates and coaches envisioned it — Ohio is 6-19 with one win in its last 13 contests — Baldwin said that she wants the team to stick together until the end of the season, no matter what.
Meanwhile, the future of Ohio women’s basketball program is bright, thanks in part to its standout freshman forward from Hattiesburg, Miss., who is living her dream.