OXON HILL, Md. – Lexi Walsh’s athletic future is as a distance runner.
For the last four years, however, Walsh has fit in just fine running the floor with many of the top high school-aged basketball players who are trying to open up future opportunities in their sport.
Walsh is in her final few days of AAU basketball and less than a year away from her final competitive game in high school. The 16-year-old from Old Forge, who is an incoming senior at Holy Cross High School in Dunmore, is playing with JB Hoops in the USJN U17 Junior Nationals, which started Saturday and conclude Tuesday at the Gaylord Convention Center at National Harbor, just outside Washington, D.C.
“I am going to run in college, so I’m going to put basketball to rest then,” Walsh said after scoring nine points when JB Hoops defeated Maryland Pride, 53-44, Saturday afternoon.
The daughter of marathon competitors Tim and Maureen Walsh, Lexi remained versatile in her sporting activities as long as possible.
“I started off playing basketball,” said Lexi Walsh, who made the NEPA Flames team at Backcourt Hoops as a fifth-grader and moved up to the JB Hoops team in eighth grade, beginning her time traveling and competing against some of the nation’s top players her age. “That was kind of my main sport, but once I started running, I really fell in love with it.
“I’ve known, probably since the start of high school, that (running in college) was what I wanted to do, but I still love basketball so I wanted to continue with that.”
Walsh has enjoyed her time with JB Hoops playing with some of the top players in District 2 and some of the same girls she has competed against for titles during the high school season. She is glad she didn’t reduce her commitment to basketball even though her college winters will be spent running indoor track.
“I love the team aspect of basketball and JB Hoops specifically,” said Walsh, one of the main factors in making Holy Cross a title contender in recent seasons. “It’s so cool to be able to play with the best players in the area.
“When we play each other on our high school teams, it’s always fun.”
Walsh said she had no intention of following her parents into competitive distance running until her father was coaxed into coaching All Saints Academy in the Catholic League for fifth- to eighth-grade teams and she joined the team as much because of the logistics of not heading in two different directions at the end of a fall school day.
Before long, she was hooked. Her talent was quickly evident and the commitment she showed as a rising basketball player was also there in the often-solo pursuit of becoming a more accomplished distance runner.
As a runner, Walsh collects medals. She has multiple state medals from cross country and track and multiple district golds in the same two sports.
Walsh specializes in the 3200-meter run in track and has won the last two District 2 Class 2A titles, but she also runs other distances.
Watch closely and it’s easy enough to picture Walsh as a runner as she tirelessly moves up and down the court. First of all, however, she looks like other basketball players as the national championships as she sets up her 3-point shot, distributes the basketball to teammates and moves her feet laterally as a defender.
“As much as I really am excited about my future in running, I really am going to miss basketball because I love it,” said Walsh, who is narrowing down her college options and said she is likely to use two of her official visits to go to NCAA Division I women’s track and field programs Temple and East Carolina. “They definitely are two completely different sports.”
When she drops basketball from her sports list, Walsh will end up turning a single pursuit into three sports in college. As is the case with most distance runners on that level, Walsh is talking to recruiters about being on three teams – cross country, indoor track and field and outdoor track and field.
Her AAU basketball career continues Sunday morning at 8 a.m. with the next JB Hoops game at nationals.