Lexy Keys was burnt out.
It was her freshman year of high school. Playing competitive softball and basketball for both her school and travel teams had consumed her summer in a hectic mashup of tournaments and traveling.
“One summer I was playing both (softball and basketball),” Keys said. “I think I was home for, not even exaggerating, one weekend of the summer. I was just so tired. I had to pick a sport. It was time.”
Choosing between softball and basketball as a primary sport to pursue was difficult. Despite her young age, Keys had already generated recruiting interest in both sports.
She just had to pick.
Keys started playing softball when she was 4 years old. She picked up basketball as a little kid too, but her first love was softball—- the sport she shared with her mother, who also played.
“I always thought I was going to go and play softball,” Keys said. “Watching the College World Series, watching people I knew go to college for softball — that was always my dream.”
However, even with her mother’s inclination for the diamond, the Keys’ family probably leans towards the hardwood.
“I come from a basketball family,” Keys said. “My dad is a basketball coach, my brothers played football, basketball, I come from a sports family. And it’s not just necessarily basketball but all my relatives are basketball coaches. So it’s in my blood I guess.”
Choosing the right sport was critical. Key’s garnered interest in colleges for her basketball and softball prowess.
She led the Sequoyah Lady Indians to their first fastpitch state title and batted .495 as a senior while starting at shortstop. She also won the 2020 Jim Thorpe High School Player of the Year award in basketball — a great honor in Oklahoma high school sports.
Whatever sport she chose would become her path to an education.
“I was kind of scared because I don’t like to hurt people or disappoint people in any way,” Keys said. “And I was torn. I didn’t want to make the wrong decision. I was good in different ways at both.”
Keys was sitting with her parents when they made the decision to pursue basketball. That choice set the course for a key decision down the road — where to play college basketball at.
There were plenty of schools after the Tahlequah native, and Keys initially intended to play at UT-Arlington. However, after a coaching change in the Mavericks program reopened her recruiting, one factor emerged that swayed Keys toward OSU.
“When I was being recruited for basketball, I never wanted to go out of state,” Keys said. “I’m a homebody. I thought two hours was too far.”
Between what sport and what school, a lot of things fell into the place for Keys to wind up at OSU. And for that, the Cowgirls are grateful. Key’s has been a significant contributor in her freshman year, averaging 8.3 points per game in her role as a ball handler and 3-point specialist.
Though the bevy of youth sports Keys played as a kid pulled her away from home, coach Jim Littell said having a multi-sport background is a big advantage for players.
“It teaches you to work hard,” Littell said. “You’re playing year around, you’re being a teammate year around, you’re being coached year around… I like it when kids are involved and supporting their school and trying to make all the teams as much as possible — I think it makes you a better teammate when you play multiple sports.”
Now that she is devoting all her athletic ability to basketball, Keys’ development will be something to watch.
Her constant smile and willingness to laugh at Littell's jokes has been good for the Cowgirls to be around, and Keys is embracing her fresh role as a one-sport athlete.
“I love it,” Keys said. “It was an adjustment for me coming even from high school to college just focusing on one sport because I’ve never had to do that before. Basketball was always my priority growing up through high school but coming in and only focusing on basketball — the plays, the little details, the extra practice behind the scenes –- that was something I really enjoyed.”