BYU: Lexi Eaton switches from hoops to track and stars

Published: Friday, April 6 2012 8:00 p.m. MDT

There are folks in Springville who believe Lexi Eaton is the best female athlete to ever come out of that Utah County enclave.

She did nothing to dispel that notion after the BYU freshman walked off the plane from the NCAA tournament in Chicago, put on track shoes and became BYU's top high jumper within a week.

Eaton is scheduled to compete as a top point producer in Saturday's meet against USC and Boise State, about a month after she scored 26 points on 10 of 19 shots against San Diego in the WCC tournament in Las Vegas.

"She's a gifted athlete. She could have gotten a scholarship in basketball, soccer or track," said BYU women's basketball coach Jeff Judkins.

If she chose to, Eaton could be a machine-gun shooter on the court, filling up the basket quicker than a binge shopper at Walmart. That, however, was not her role as a rookie.

She's savvy with the dribble, smart with angles and has a great feel for the court. Eaton launches 3-pointers with a satin touch; she can gather up for a mid-range jumper and finish at the basket with the best of them. She also plays the piano and academically has a 3.9 GPA. She'd like to fit in soccer but it conflicts with basketball. You question if there's anything she can't do. Wonder Woman has nothing on this kid.

"No matter what Lexi does, you know she's going to give it her all," said Judkins. "In basketball, she has a great feel for the game and what needs to be done. She's the complete package, she can shoot, rebound, jump and defend. Not every athlete can do it all, but Lexi can."

As a high jumper, she's a power jumper, which means she doesn't need to use a lot of speed. At 5-10, she's got the perfect height to maximize her leaping ability and attack the bar. Once in launch position, she can explode. If Eaton gets down the technique and practices a little, her goal is to break the 6-foot barrier this spring.

If you look at her high school resume, good luck getting through the forest and maneuvering the trees. Two-time state scoring champion, state jump champion, Parade All-American, ESPN All-American, yada, yada, yada, turn the page. The list goes on and on.

Most parents would be pleased with a couple of those honors from a son or daughter. She's got an encyclopedia full. Wikipedia had to requisition more storage to handle the Lexi file.

"Lexi has a very open-minded attitude, which makes her very unique," according to BYU assistant track coach Corey Murdock, who is working specifically with Eaton on her high-jump skills.

"It's become a lot easier for kids to focus on the big sports like football, basketball and baseball, but Lexi just loves to compete in any form. She loves to improve, and her open-minded attitude allows her to succeed. She is a naturally amazing athlete, but she is also very hardworking. Her attitude and her talent are a great combination. She is always willing to listen and loves to be taught. She is a gem to work with."

Murdock believes Eaton's track talent isn't just a holdover for something to do in between basketball season and basketball skill development this summer.

"She has the potential to go to nationals this year. If she can go 5-11 or 6-0 at the right meet, she could be an All-American this season. We have set a high bar for her, both literally and figuratively, because she is so talented. She has a lot of potential but is still a little bit raw in terms of technique just because she hasn't had a chance to focus much on the high jump. Once we get a few technical issues worked out she will be able to maximize her potential."

Eaton had every reason to take a rest after returning from the NCAAs where the Cougars lost to DePaul. It was a long season with a ton of travel, an emotional WCC title and relationships with a close-knit squad.

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