There’s no place like home, right?
Stanford’s 6-foot-1 junior guards Lexie and Lacie Hull – who led Central Valley to a pair of state titles during their high school careers – have traveled across the country playing basketball, but there’s one place they really look forward to playing.
“It always is a big deal to come home and play in Spokane,” Lacie said. “I mean, it’s where we’re from. It’s where all the people we love are. So I think coming home is just always super exciting.”
Playing in a conference against a local team helps, since the Cardinal annually play home-and-away series with Washington State. The Cougars (8-4, 6-4 Pac-12) host No. 6 Stanford (12-2, 9-2) Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. (Pac-12 Network) and again Friday at noon.
“Every game means a lot,” Lexie said. “Especially playing at home, like Lacie said, where we’re from. It means more for us.”
This is the fourth time Stanford has played in the Spokane area since the twins joined the team – twice against WSU and once against Gonzaga.
Lexie Hull is one of the most decorated players in the history of girls high school basketball in the state. She was twice named Gatorade State Player of the Year and was a three-time Associated Press 4A State Player of the Year.
Lacie wasn’t far behind. She was named the state coaches association 4A player of the year her senior season, named to the 4A all-state first team and was the Seattle Times co-player of the year with her sister.
The pair went 102-6 in their prep career with two state titles and a win at the GEICO Nationals in New York.
Dave Nichols / The Spokesman-Review
Dave Nichols / The Spokesman-Review
Still growing as players
“We’re learning things every game, every practice,” Lexie said. “The Pac-12 is a super-competitive conference, so we have to make adjustments every game because the league is so competitive.”
“I think that it’s a continuing learning experience,” Lacie said. “I think we’re getting better each game, so I think it’s in the end it’s very positive.”
The Hulls have proven they not only belong, but are thriving at the national level. Lexie was named All-Pac-12 and all-defensive teams by coaches and media last season and is on the Naismith and Wade trophies watch lists as player of the year this season. Lacie is a two-time conference all-defensive team honorable mention and was named to the all-freshman team her first season.
So they are more than just fitting in at the next level, but they also know they can’t rest on their laurels.
“(In college) a lot of people were McDonald’s All-Americans. A lot of people were Gatorade Player of the Year in their states,” Lexie said. “So you can’t expect that your name or your previous accolades are going to get you any playing time or it gets you any wins because no one thinks about your high school achievements anymore.
“You have to show what you can do each game and be ready to prove why you’re there and why you should play.”
Playing for a legend
Of course, they are learning from one of the best to ever do it.
In a storied career, Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer has established herself as one of the top coaches in the history of collegiate and international women’s basketball, and been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (2011) and the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame (2002).
Some stars in high school never adjust to playing along with other stars in college. Lacie said VanDerveer addresses that often with her players.
“With Tara, after every game she’s like, ‘Our team’s an orchestra, and every game, a different instrument is going to have their time to shine, their solo.’ ” Lacie said.
It’s one thing physically to go through that change – not having the ball in your hands every play. If anything, a player needs to be more up to the task mentally.
“I think it’s just doing whatever the team needs, and that’s different every year,” Lacie said. “I think accepting that and doing the best that you can at that specific role is the only thing you can do and the best thing you can do for your team.”
The twins relish the opportunity to be so close to a Hall of Fame coach on a daily basis.
“I mean, she’s incredible,” Lexie said. “Tara is such a skilled coach and the fact that she sees things that not everybody sees and she tells you that.
“It is pretty crazy to like sit back and realize the fact that I am playing for someone so renowned as Tara VanDerveer. I mean, it’s crazy, but right now it’s like – she’s my coach. That’s just the name of the game.”
“She has won so many games and that comes with a lot of experience and a lot of knowledge that I feel really blessed to be able to kind of soak that up for my time that I’m here,” Lacie said.
The Hulls know this isn’t the typical college experience. Playing in a Power 5 conference for a nationally ranked program carries a different perspective.
“I don’t really play with thinking about the expectation that we like have to be good,” Lacie said. “I mean, every game is important, and so we focus on that. We focus on the team we’re playing that game, not the team we’re playing in three games. Not whether or not we need to win this game to have some record or be someplace in the Pac-12, or in the nation or whatever.”
“We have that in the back of our minds, but the expectation to perform isn’t necessarily for the ranking purpose,” Lexie said. “It’s because we believe in our hearts and in ourselves that we are one of the best teams in the country.”
Dealing with COVID
Their junior year at college has been like no other. The pandemic has taken its toll on athletes everywhere, and the twins realize they are participating in a unique situation.
“I mean, it’s definitely challenging,” Lexie said. “All of us, it’s going to be a season that we’re never going to forget.”
“I think the biggest adjustment has just been the uncertainty,” Lacie said. “We don’t know what tomorrow is going to look like. We don’t know what a week’s going to look like. We’re just really grateful to have the day that we do have.”
Stanford played eight of nine away games earlier this season due to COVID restrictions in California.
“We’ve been on the road for over a month, living out of hotels and suitcases and practicing in places we don’t recognize,” Lexie said. “That’s really challenging all of us. But I think it’s brought a lot of us closer, and we’ve just learned to grow through this experience and yes, it’s challenging, but we’re also just really happy and blessed to be able to play every day.”
They’ve been fortunate to be able to lean on each other through the pandemic.
“I think this college experience and especially this COVID college experience has been 10 times easier because we’ve been together,” Lexie said. “I mean, I know that a lot of our teammates are struggling because they don’t have family with them for the past few months, but we do, and so I feel very lucky for that.”
It’s hard to imagine how the pair, both on the Pac-12 academic honor roll, find time to study. They receive COVID-19 testing at 8 a.m. and typically practice at noon, so they cram study hours into the period between.
“We’re definitely having to prioritize certain things and just lay out our schedule every day to figure out where we can fit in an extra 30 minutes to watch a lecture or something like that,” Lexie said.
“Yeah, it’s really just about time management,” Lacie said. “Everyone’s different because everyone has classes at certain times or they have classes that are recorded and then they have to figure out times to watch them.”
Looking back … and forward
With all their accolades, the two still think it’s too early to reflect on a legacy or their accomplishments.
“I haven’t had too much time to reflect on that, just because I feel like we are still growing and trying to achieve things,” Lexie said. “It is funny to think back about high school because those were some of my favorite games and favorite experiences with my teammates.
“I see pictures of those days show up on Instagram, or something like that, and it makes me really sad that those times are over, because I love those girls and I love those teams. But when we’re playing, I don’t think we’re really thinking about the effects of what’s happening right now. It’s more of just playing in the moment and having fun. I think in five years, then we can finally look back on these last eight years and really reflect.”
“I look back at like my high school experience and I’m just really grateful for it,” Lacie said. “And I think that it’s put me in a position to be where I am today. I look back and I just, I really value those games and those teams and coaches – and just memories as a whole – because I think it’s really taught me a lot and it’s given me the knowledge to know that on any team I’m on we’re capable of doing anything that we want.”
Ever since they were little kids, almost every minute they’ve spent on the court has been with each other. Now in college, that’s not necessarily the case.
“It’s really fun for us to play together, I think,” Lexie said. “(Friday) night’s game we got some minutes together which was really fun for us, because I think we really feed off of each other.
“But that was an adjustment coming in that we had to start to become more of our own players and distinguish ourselves without each other, which was hard, but it’s an adjustment that we both made. But in terms of this entire process and being able to play with her is something that I really value, and I wouldn’t want to play somewhere without her.”
“We might not be on the court at the same time, but just being on the same team has been just very valuable,” Lacie said. “We are all one very connected system and one family and so regardless of who’s playing, I feel very fortunate to be with everyone, and especially with Lexie, on this team.”
Both have professional aspirations after college, whether that’s the WNBA or wherever it might take them.
“I think first and foremost, my goal would be to get drafted,” Lexie said. “But if that doesn’t happen, then I hope to play (internationally) and then maybe make my way to the league.”
“I think anyway to continue the basketball experience and prolong it, it would be something I’m definitely interested in,” Lacie said.
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