Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

December 28, 2013

Graham’s Kiser pursuing her dreams on the hardwood

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD, Va. — It is likely true that most 15-year-old girls aren’t thinking ahead to life after high school.

Lexi Kiser isn’t like most girls.        

“I just know there are people out there working harder than me and trying to get better,” said Kiser, a freshman basketball standout at Graham. “I just have to keep up with them and work just as hard.”

She has a dream and a goal. They’re one and the same.

“I just have a goal and I just want to get my goal and play college (ball),” Kiser said. “I just want to do something for my family and know that I actually did something successful in my life.

“I guess God put that in my mind. That is my dream and that is what I want to do.”

Kiser is on her way. The Graham freshman had played just six games of varsity basketball prior to Friday’s night home tilt with PikeView, but was playing like a veteran, having contributed 17.5 points, 3.0 steals and 2.1 assists for the G-Girls.

“I still feel like a freshman,” said Kiser, one of three freshman starters for Graham, along with Dejah Carter and Jia Coppola. “I guess I will always feel like a freshman throughout the season, but I don’t want to play like one.”

So far so good.

“We are only six games into it and I don’t really consider her a freshman,”

Graham head coach Tracy Raban said. “I start three of them and I think for the most part all three of them have stepped up. Her being a point guard, she has the ball in her hands a bit more than the other two.

“I think she has grown up a lot in six games and hopefully by midseason, it is not even a question that she isn’t a freshman.”

Kiser was terrific in the Perry Coe Shootout last week in Wytheville. She scored 68 points in three games, leading the G-Girls to two wins before falling to Chilhowie in the championship game.

That effort was enough to earn Kiser the Pocahontas Coal Association/Bluefield Daily Telegraph Player of the Week award, the second time in two seasons that a Graham freshman (Emaleigh Gallinger) has claimed the top honors.

“We will take it, it is not bad when you get a phone call saying your freshman is player of the week two years in a row,” Raban said. “That is a good thing for the program and hopefully in the future to come.

“If you look all around, we have got three freshmen, a sophomore and a junior starting right now so it looks good for the future. We just have to keep them together and keep them working with each other and bonding as a team.”

All Kiser did was score 31 points in the loss to the Warriors, which followed outputs of 23 (and three steals) against Auburn and 14 versus home-standing George Wythe.

“She just loves the game of basketball, she is a kid that plays year round, she doesn’t play any other sports but basketball,” Raban said. “She is just an all-around good kid, loves the game of basketball and dedicates herself to the sport.”

How dedicated? Kiser, who began playing basketball at age 7, has been playing AAU ball in North Carolina since fifth grade, and comes from a family that is willing to stay on the road with her.

“I play year round,” Kiser said. “We are never home, we spent three nights at home in July so we were never home.”

Kiser is still adjusting to life as a freshman on the varsity level, but may have announced her arrival with a 16-point effort against Tazewell two weeks ago in the G-Girls’ first win of the season.

“It has been a lot to get used to, but with practice we have gotten better and it has taught us better as a team and individually,” Kiser said.

The biggest adjustments? “The physicalness of the other players by far and just having to rebound and talking a lot on defense,” she said.

Raban certainly isn’t complaining.

“She has been around the game enough that she knows when she needs to take control,” Raban said. “She knows how to get the team involved, it took her a couple of games to get used to the varsity level, it is so different from what she had been playing.

“It didn’t take her long, and I didn’t think it would because she has always played against older kids in AAU and all that stuff. It is just a matter of getting her to feel comfortable and get used to playing with these girls...

“She stepped up in the tournament and carried us through the tournament.”

It was a good week, but not good enough.

“I was impressed with the offense, but we could have played better on defense and that could have ultimately let us win that last game,” Kiser said. “I guess I needed more assists and steals, but it was OK, I could have done better...

“We are playing good. We are playing as a team, we are playing strong and if we continue to play strong and as a team we will get far.”

Graham played PikeView on Friday night, looking to avenge a loss to the Panthers from earlier in the month. That forced the G-Girls to arise early for a shoot-around on a cold morning, but if Kiser is in a gym, there is no reason to complain.

“I knew we had a game,” Kiser said. “We had to get ready and suit up and get ready for tonight.”

That attitude and the dream to succeed could take Kiser far in her basketball life. She knows exactly where she would like to wind up.

“My favorite team college-wise is Virginia Tech,” she said, with a smile. “I would love to play for them, that is my ultimate goal.”

—Contact Brian Woodson

Honorable Mention

Bland County: Kristen Dillow, 37 points in 2 games; Amber Eaton, 30 points in 2 games;

Bluefield: Jesslyn Fullerton 11 points vs. Nicholas County.

Giles: Kelsey Mosley, 53 points in 3 games;  Kiersten Shrader 14 points vs. Narrows; Emily Harless 10 points vs. Narrows; Tanisha Flinchum 16 points vs. Narrows

Graham: Dejah Carter, 37 points, 30 rebounds in 3 games, 5 blocks vs. George Wythe; Jia Coppola, 22 points in 2 of 3 games; Emmaleigh Gallinger 12 points, 5 steals vs. Auburn.

Grundy: Morgan Hall, 33 points in 2 games; Shelby Yates 16 vs. Tazewell

James Monroe: Laine Shiflet 12 points vs. Giles; Megan Bailey 10 points vs. Giles; Kelsey Christian 11 points vs. George Wythe.

Mount View: Jasmine Lash 17 points (5 threes) vs. Man; Keisha Johnson 16 points vs. Man.

Narrows: Shelby Baker, 60 points, 40 rebounds in 3 games; Tiffany Perdue, 51 points in 3 games.

Princeton: Kaleigh Barker 21 points and seven rebounds vs. Nitro.

PikeView: Courtney White, 27 points in 2 games, 15 points, 18 rebounds vs. Westside; Madison May, 37 points in 2 games; Lyndsay Hatfield, 32 points in 2 games; Lauryn Hatfield 10 points vs. Mount View;  Brittany Moore 14 points vs. Shady Spring

River View: Kiersten Dority 17 points, four steals and four assists vs. Liberty; Katie Dobbs 15 points and 14 rebounds vs. Liberty.

Summers County: Brandy Morrison 31 points, 4 rebounds, 4 steals, 2 assists vs. Wyoming East; Whittney Justice 17 points, 6 rebounds, 6 steals, 4 assists; Audrey Holley 10 points; Brittney Justice 10 points.

Tazewell: Whitney Saunders 53 points in 3 games;  Haley Christian, 25 points in 2 of 3 games; Autumn Hash 14 points vs. Rural Retreat.

Wyoming East: Bre Pertee 15 points vs. Summers County.