If you watched the Clinton High girls basketball team play last season, then Lexus Simpson would be a familiar face on the court.
She was the varsity point guard who could easily dribble by most defenders, getting the ball in the position it needed to be for the score. Lexus takes her position seriously, which is probably one of the reasons the team made it all the way to the second round of the state 2A playoffs last year.
“Point guard is the coach on the basketball court,” Simpson explained during a recent interview. “I call the plays on the floor. I try to make sure everyone is in position before running the plays.”
When you watch the Dark Horse play, it’s hard to believe she never touched a basketball until five years ago, when she tried out during her seventh-grade year at Roseboro-Salemburg Middle School.
Apparently, it was love at first touch, because despite running track during her freshman year at Clinton, Lexus doesn’t want to play any other sport. “It’s the one sport I love. My momma played basketball when she was in high school, so I guess I just took on her traits,” Lexus said, smiling. Her mom is Leslie Simpson who played basketball for Lakewood, as well as ran track, until she graduated in 1993.
“It’s fun and I like playing with other people who love it just as much as I do,” Lexus added.
The rising senior said she moved into the Clinton district her eighth-grade year and has been playing on the same basketball team with this same group of girls ever since.
She played on both the junior varsity and varsity team her freshman year, then moved up to become the sixth man on the varsity squad as a sophomore. Last season she was a full-time starter.
When asked how she got good enough to be on the varsity team, she replied simply, “practice.”
Besides practicing with the team during the regular basketball season, Lexus said she practiced in gym, plus played in the summer league with her high school teammates and the same head coach, Chris Owens.
Skill drills, such as dribbling between her legs, behind her back,spin moves and low V front, are what she focuses on.
“I practice whenever I can,” she stated. That also includes at home on the backyard goal and pickup games at the Sampson Center.
A broken knee cap almost ended Lexus’ basketball career. She said it happened when she was a sophomore right after the basketball season ended. “I was playing in open gym and did a jump stop,” she recalled. That’s when you dribble full speed down the court and stop abruptly to shoot the ball. She hyper-extended her leg and the knee cap broke.
The injury did halt her involvement in track. “I ran my freshman year, but after I hurt my knee the next year, I just never tried out again,” she explained.
The injury still gives her some problems, but she plays through the pain. “It aches after playing a few games, but not enough to stop me from playing,” she declared.
That attitude is most likely one of the reasons she got the award for being the “Player with the Most Intensity” last season. She said the team’s motto was “Play with Intensity” and she took it to heart.
“If you’re not going to give it all you‘ve got, then just don’t do it,” Simpson asserted. “You’ve got to give 100 percent or there’s no point in it.”
In speaking about this past season, Lexus recalled her most memorable basketball moment. “It was after we lost in the playoffs and the team was in the locker room and we were expressing how we felt about it. It was then that we determined that this coming season we are going to go further in the playoffs since it was our last season.” She was referring to the eight (then) juniors on the team.
Lexus said her goal of winning the state championship for the upcoming season is as much for herself as it is for Coach Owens. “I hope we go undefeated and take our coach all the way, because he’s never taken a team to the state championship game. I hope we win it all just for him.”
She said Coach Owens is like a second dad to her. “He helped me go to the UNC-Chapel Hill basketball camp this year. Coach Owens pushes me harder because he knows I can be a better player. When my dad isn’t around, he’s there, pretty much,” Lexus said.
“He actually doesn’t get paid for coaching us. He said he’s there because God put him in that position and he’s doing it because he loves us,” she continued, and added, “If Coach Owens wasn’t coaching at Clinton High, I probably wouldn’t be on the team. There’s no other coach like him.”
Lexus also gives her parents credit for motivating her to give 100 percent. “My parents attend as many games as they can and they push me like my coach does. When I get frustrated during a game, they tell me to to get down and to keep playing.”
In academics, Lexus is an A-B student, but she doesn’t have any other major interests beside playing basketball.