Lexi Gussert sits up against the Miss Basketball trophy awarded by the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan on March 12 in Detroit. Gussert became just the second girl from the U.P. to be given the award. (photo courtesy of Detroit Free Press)
CRYSTAL FALLS— Her name, really, is Alexis Jo.
But nobody actually calls her that. Maybe just her parents Scott and Kathy, when they’re are mad at her.
No, she’s just Lexi, no last name needed. Opposing coaches, players and even famous broadcasters like former Michigan State Spartan great Greg Kelser don’t use her last name much.
Surely, when an athlete gets to first-name-only status, they’ve made an impact. And Lexi Gussert certainly did during her career with the Forest Park Trojans.
She finished with 2,630 points, which is the most ever scored by a prep boy or girl in the U.P. That total is fourth all-time on the state girls list.
Plus, she now stands atop the all-time state list for 3-pointers made in a season with 105.
For the second straight year, Gussert was selected as the Associated Press Class D Player of the Year and this year she was picked as the Michigan Girls Basketball Gatorade Player of the Year.
And the big one came with the announcement on Wednesday that Lexi was chosen as Miss Basketball, the award given to the best female prep player in the state by the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan, in conjunction with the Detroit Free Press.
It’s just the second time a player from the U.P. has been picked, the other being Krista Clement of St. Ignace in 2003.
“I found out after the regional final,” Gussert said. “I went to my coach’s house and that’s when they did a toast. We teared up. It’s just a huge honor to be called the best player in Michigan.”
Though she found out she won the prestigious award on March 6, Lexi couldn’t share the news with any of her teammates or anyone else beyond her family for that matter.
The team found out she’d won when it was on its way downstate to play in the state semifinals in East Lansing. Instead of stopping there, the Trojans’ chartered bus took a detour and headed for Detroit, where Lexi was presented with the huge trophy.
So does Gussert have another hidden skill – keeping secrets?
“Not really, I just had to keep this one.”
While last Wednesday’s presentation will always be a highlight for Gussert, her final game wearing Forest Park black-and-red will be a tough one to forget. The Trojans stood minutes away from bringing home the first girls basketball state championship in school history, but Mt. Pleasant Sacred Heart came roaring back to win the title 56-53.
Gussert had a sub-par shooting game, going 7-for-21 from the field after hitting 6-of-20 in the semifinal.
Understandably, Lexi has taken the loss hard.
“It killed me after the game,” said Gussert, who felt her shot was off the entire last week of the tournament run. “We played our hearts, but my shots just didn’t fall. It was really hard for me, it still is.”
Gussert has heard nothing but support from the Forest Park community since the final game. Trojan fans know they will likely never see another player of Lexi’s caliber play for their school.
“Lexi is a gift to her family,” Forest Park superintendent Becky Waters said of Gussert, who is also top in her class with a 3.97 grade point average. “Then she became a gift to the school district, then a gift to the U.P. and a gift to the state of Michigan.
“We can say her path began in Crystal Falls, Michigan.”
“She is the most amazing player that we have seen in the U.P.,” assistant coach Jackie Giuliani said.
“What she has done for girls basketball in our area cannot be described in words,” head coach Jeff Syrjanen added.
Lexi said she will continue her basketball activities immediately, heading back into the weight room and onto the court to scrimmage with members of the Trojan boys team as she prepares to begin her collegiate career at Michigan State next fall.
Before she does that, she paused to reflect on the past four years playing in her hometown.
“I can just describe it as family. I think that’s what girls basketball did, it really brought a lot of people together.”
And with that, and after a couple of weeks eating one pasta dish after another, Lexi headed out with family and friends to scarf down a burger and fries.
Bon appétit, Alexis Jo.