FAIRBORN — Since a hard fought 51-58 loss to Horizon League front-runner Green Bay late last month, the Raiders have strung together six straight wins. Senior forward Lexi Smith has made a significant contribution to the streak with her efforts in the post.
Though she is second on the team in total rebounds per game (6.9), Smith has made a mark nationally by ranking seventh in the NCAA in offensive rebounding with around five each game.
“On nights we don’t shoot the ball well, I still feel confident in our ability to score, because of her (Smith) offensive rebounding,” WSU coach Katrina Merriweather said. “She also helps her teammates rebound, because she draws so much attention.”
She might be listed at 5-foot-10, but Smith has the heart and determination necessary to battle with post players that are well over 6 feet tall on some occasions.
“Lexi’s strength is that she doesn’t see limits. At 5-10, there isn’t another post player I’ve seen get as much done for her size,” Merriweather said. “Her relentless pursuit of rebounds and her ability to finish over bigger players makes her extremely valuable to our team. The post is a physical spot and she battles for her team every game.”
“I like to take on a lot of challenges,” Smith said. “It makes me feel accomplished when I go up against people that big and get a rebound on them.”
There are a lot of moments that stand out in Smith’s career, because of her effort Merriweather says. The game she did mention was her debut as coach for WSU against Tennessee Tech last season.
“It’s my first year, and people assumed we’d be down with the graduation of Kim Demmings. We’ve traditionally had strong guard play, but questionable post options,” Merriweather said. “Lexi comes out with a career-high 25 points. When that happened, I thought we had a chance to be pretty good.”
On the stat sheet Smith’s impact is clear, but she feels over the years her perspective of what contributes to victories and basketball IQ have also been key to the team’s success.
“When I say improve, I don’t always mean by points and rebounds. Sometimes there are other things that can help us win,” Smith said. “I feel like my defense and opening up opportunities for other teammates to score is important.”
After she graduates, Smith says she will miss being around her supportive teammates.
“They’ve never once thought I wasn’t good enough to get a rebound or score, and have always pushed me as much as they could,” Smith said. “I think I really needed that over the years. My freshman year, they urged me to keep going at it and trying to challenge myself.”
Smith added how Merriweather has believed in her.
“She is really good at seeing someone’s potential. Over the years, she has had faith in me and that’s what I’ve appreciated from her,” Smith said. “When I might not know exactly what I need to do, she has always read into what I could improve.”
The Raiders will have a good chance to continue their winning ways with the energy Smith has been bringing to the court lately.
“We have high expectations of each other and I think we’re still on a pretty good roll right now,” Smith said. “We’re just ready for the next challenge.”
Story courtesy of Alan Hieber and Wright State University Athletics.
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