BOULDER, Colo. –The difference in Colorado point guard Lexy Kresl this season is obvious to anyone who has seen the senior play the past four years. It’s also showing up in the box score for emphasis.
Kresl is playing with a confidence and competitiveness she hasn’t always shown during her career with the Buffs.
She credits first-year assistant coach Jamie Carey for infusing her and other guards on the roster with a renewed desire to improve, compete and thrive on the court.
“In so many ways,” Kresl said about how Carey has helped her game. “Honestly I don’t even know if I could list them all. I’d say one of the greatest contributions she has made to this program from coaching the point guards is the mentality she has brought.
“She was a great point guard herself and she knows what it takes to win. She has kind of passed that on to Brecca [Thomas] and I, just being tough and taking control of the game and how to lead. … It has really transformed how we think about the game of basketball.”
Coach Linda Lappe pounced on the opportunity to hire Carey earlier this year and it seems to be paying dividends already in the first half of her initial season with the Buffs. Carey is one of the best female basketball players the state of Colorado ever produced. She attended Horizon High School in the late 1990s and moved on to an injury-plagued but successful college career at both Stanford and Texas.
She played four years in the WNBA and worked as a high school coach in the state while also working with USA Basketball as the assistant director for the women’s national team.
But the opportunity to coach in her home state at the highest level of college basketball in the Pac-12 led Carey to come to Boulder. The Buffs are off to a 6-3 start in her first season working for Lappe.
The first-year coach Carey is in a situation college coaches find themselves working through all the time. She is trying to help Kresl maximize the final year of her college experience and get the most from herself on the court while trying to instill all the right fundamentals in Thomas so she can blossom just as Kresl has, but maybe a little sooner.
— Lexy Kresl
Carey said Thomas is still adjusting to the pace of the college game and how things move but she has seen growth in the past two weeks. Carey said she can tell Thomas has relaxed a lot in recent games and is getting back to relying on her skills and playing basketball.
She believes in the “show, don’t tell” model of coaching to the point that she has had her ankles taped up a few times this fall so she could participate in practice alongside her players.
“She is the most intense person I have ever played with before,” Kresl said about Carey. “She’ll be screaming at us even though obviously it doesn’t matter to her at this point. She’s not getting in the game but she just brings that with her on defense and offense. She has taken charges when she has practiced with us, if that kind of explains it to you.”
Carey allows a wry smile and shrugs when asked about taking those charges.
“Any time you step on the floor, your instincts take over,” she said. “Why not? If you expect them to do it, I should do it, too, right?”
Kresl said Carey is already one of her favorite coaches she has played for throughout her club, high school and college careers and wishes she had more time to learn from her. She said there have been times in the first nine games of the season when she notices herself executing something on the court in a game that Carey taught her. More than once in those moments she has looked to the bench, where Carey acknowledges the play with what Kresl described as “a little smirk kind of thing like, ‘That’s what I told you to do.’ “
In 31 games last season, Kresl dished out a total of 95 assists. In nine games this season she has already registered 50 assists. She is also scoring three more points per game, grabbing two more rebounds and has improved her 3-point shooting percentage from 24 percent to nearly 38 percent.
“I honestly don’t know that I can take all the credit, to be very honest,” Carey said. “I think sometimes just the maturation process improves players. I think Lexy is a very smart basketball player. She has a very high IQ, and because of that she is a very fun player to coach because she is so smart and she gets things so quickly you never really have to tell her things twice.
“She has just taken a few simple things that I have told her and that others have told her along the way and she has really implemented them as a senior.”