Waukesha tandem reaching such great heights

Published on: 12/24/2012

Lexi Weitzer swears she didn't know a whole lot about the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay when the Phoenix first became interested.

She didn't associate the program with perhaps the highest level of women's basketball the state has produced, about the many trips to the NCAA Tournament and frequent appearances in the national rankings.

"I never really followed them at all and it never came up," the Waukesha South senior said. "Nobody around my school got recruited by them before. After I started to learn more about them, I started thinking I have to do this, I have to go after this."

Weitzer, a 6-3 center who already walks into the gym as the most recognizable player on the Blackshirts squad, saw her profile skyrocket when she committed to play basketball in Green Bay beginning next year.

"People think Green Bay is probably the premier women's basketball program in the state," South coach Paul Darling said. "People see she's going there and say, 'If they're seeing talent in her, she must have it.' Lexi hasn't been one of those kids who throws up huge numbers, but what she does provide to us is consistency. She's double doubles every night. That's exactly what Green Bay would like to get out of her and something we're happy to get out of her."

Though she averages fewer than 12 points per game, that doesn't mean she lacks offensive gifts, though those may still be blooming.

"I really pride myself on defense, in general," Weitzer said. "That's where I began. I've never been overly confident with my offensive game; I'd shoot but I wasn't really sure of myself, so defense is where I made up for it. Over the summer I played with a new AAU team and my coach really pushed me (on offense) and told me you can dribble, you can shoot, so do it. He really brought my confidence up."

She's not the only Classic 8 Conference player who fits this profile.

Special K

Like Weitzer, Waukesha West's Kianna Keller isn't going to wow you with her offensive numbers - in fact, she's averaging less than 7 points per game. Like Weitzer, she's going to make her living on defense, standing 6-4 and representing perhaps the most disruptive defensive force in the league. She's also headed to play Division 1 college basketball, but not close to home at the University of New Mexico.

"I guess I just liked it a lot because it seemed so different from Wisconsin," Keller said. "I liked the coach and the atmosphere.

"Personally I do hear it a lot that big girls don't use their height enough. It's more of a surprise when I do more than (an opponent) thought I could. If I block a ball chasing after a girl who thought she had a full court layup, there's enjoyment because they didn't think I'd get back in time."

Keller's Wolverines are off to a tremendous start at 7-0, tied with Arrowhead atop the league standings. She doesn't have to be the go-to offensive threat with such a talented roster.

"She's just super unselfish," first-year coach Mark Busalacchi said. "I don't want to make her out to something she's not, just stick her down on the post and get her the ball down low. She's much more athletic than that. She runs probably better than anyone on our team, and she's super smart defensively. She might have had four points in a game but she was the most dominant player on the floor by far. She can dominate the game without taking any shots. She's just not a back to the basket player, right now."

Still, neither Keller nor Weitzer has trouble racking up blocked shots.

"I guess I'm good at getting people frustrated with my arm length; most people don't realize my arms are that long," Keller said. "I'm not always thinking about blocking shots, I'm watching where the ball goes and thinking about help side. I'm there to help my player and alter a lot of shots."

Said Busalacchi, "She plays bigger than she is. It's almost like the girl is 6-7 because she dominates the glass."

Friendly foes

Keller and Weitzer have been playing against each other for years.

"I played against her my whole life, and we know how to guard each other," Keller said. "I guess the most memorable moment was seventh-grade state, where we beat South by 40 and we didn't think we could do that. We played them in our league and didn't think we were that good."

They played each other again as high-school seniors Dec. 18, with Keller's team winning the battle, 55-32.

"We weren't as strong as we wish we would have been, and my shots weren't falling," Weitzer said. "But knowing that I'm playing against somebody who's a little bit taller kind of adds to the challenge."

Keller has received interest from programs such as Delaware and Iowa State, while Weitzer visited Toledo and Indiana. When Kevin Borseth returned to the UWGB program after coaching at Michigan, Weitzer said the recruiting interest in her intensified.

"Her strength, that certainly helps separate her from her competition," Darling said of Weitzer. "We have always wanted a post player here at South, and we finally get one but then West gets one and North gets two (in Elizabeth and Jessica Kelliher). The timing doesn't always work out but it's just great to be able to compete against each other and ultimately, that makes her better."

Darling said Weitzer's conditioning has allowed her to increase her contribution.

"What separates her a little bit is she runs the floor really well in transition, and she has that ability to hit that 3-point shot," Darling said. "That makes it extremely difficult to defend. The only time Lexi is sitting next to us is if she's in foul trouble, so she's playing a full 32 minutes a game."