After 19 years, GV’s second Plitzuweit will take the court


Courtesy to Argus Leader

Holly Bihlman, Staff Writer

For the 2021-22 women’s basketball season, coach Mike Williams announced seven new recruits, one of which is a familiar face to some long-time Grand Valley State University staff members. Lexi Plitzuweit, a senior at Vermillion High School in South Dakota right now, plans to attend GVSU next year, coming back to some of her first memories in the world of basketball.

From 2002-07, Lexi’s mom, better known as coach Dawn Plitzuweit, took the women’s basketball team at GVSU to the NCAA Championships four out of the five years at the school. She led the Lakers to taking home the trophy in the 2005-06 season. While Lexi plans to finish out her high school season in South Dakota, her mom is currently head coach for the Division I South Dakota Coyotes, going on her fifth year there. 

For Lexi, moving halfway across the country to play college basketball isn’t that big of a leap, especially with all the people her mom has kept in contact with all these years. As the daughter of a coaching mom, Lexi is used to moving around here and there, so she’s excited to be coming back. 

“I was in the GVSU gym my third day alive, so that’s kind of funny to think about,” Lexi said. “I love the people at GVSU, and that’s why I picked it. I have a lot of people who will look out for me and know what’s best for me.”

Having Williams coach her as a long-time family friend certainly makes the Plitzuweit family more comfortable sending Lexi so far from home. When they were touring schools for Lexi, Dawn found that there were more than a few familiar faces around campus at GVSU. The tight-knit community, especially in the athletic department, is what Lexi and her mom really loved about our school. 

“Lexi wanted to go to their elite camp, so when we travelled to Michigan, what was neat about that opportunity is that there’s so many people,” Dawn said. “This is how you know GVSU is special. There’s so many people that are the same position that they were at back in the early 2000’s like coaches, administrators, individuals on campus, the janitorial staff. When it’s a home like that for so many wonderful people, we felt really confident that Lexi was going to have that same experience.”

Aside from all the obvious advantages for Lexi to commit to being a Laker, she really wanted to pick a school where she knew she could continue her love for the sport. Having a mom as a college basketball coach was definitely influential on Lexi’s knack for the sport, but coming from an athletic family allows for more opportunities to learn and play all kinds of sports. Lexi played varsity soccer and ran cross country in high school like her older brother, but both of them decided to take the basketball route. 

“I think my love for basketball really did come from being around it all the time with my mom and going to her practices when I was little,” Lexi said. “I used to always grab a ball at Northern Kentucky and Michigan, and I would do ball handling on the letters of the baseline and I thought it was so cool. I also think the love of basketball I have is my own. It’s not forced by my parents, which is awesome because it’s good to have a connection with them through something that we both love.”

From Lexi’s memory, she knows that basketball has always been something her family has bonded over, whether it’s watching it on TV or playing two-on-two. In her mom’s memory, it’s something Lexi grew up with because they didn’t have anyone to babysit for them when they moved to Michigan. Dawn said that Lexi and her brother would play cars or color on the sidelines at practices, but eventually they picked up on the sport, and the rest is history. 

One of the lesser-known side effects of having a mom for a coach is what Lexi calls, “momming like a coach”.

“Now in terms of ‘moming like a coach,’ or something like that, that one’s a little bit more challenging for me,” Dawn said. “When Lexi explained to me what she meant by it – that I wasn’t easy on her – I said, ‘Okay, I can agree with that.’” 

While having a coaching mom may be tough at times, it’s also brought Lexi may lessons in determination and adversity.

“I feel like the most important lessons I’ve learned from her in life have come from her being a coach and I honestly think it carries over,” Lexi said. “Things that my mom instilled in me would just be that I’m a super competitive person and she’s a super competitive person. I think it helps me get through things in life just by working hard. Finding a way to get things done, that’s her saying. Even if it’s not easy, just find a way.”

Dawn’s coaching has evolved as she’s had kids and started a family. She’s more in-tune with what her student athletes are experiencing and learning, especially through a pandemic. Her success on the scoreboard shows, but what she cares most about in coaching is something that her favorite basketball player taught her when she was a kid. 

“Magic Johnson was my favorite player when I was growing up,” Dawn said. “What I loved about him was that he was highly competitive, but he had fun while he was playing. He played with a smile on his face. That’s what I want out of our student athletes.”

While Lexi prepares for her transition from high school to college and from South Dakota to Michigan, her mom will be rooting for her from a different court. In the meantime, with one kid already away at college, they’ll spend as much time as they can watching and talking about basketball. As the time grows closer to Lexi’s arrival at GVSU, she and her mom may get even more competitive with each other. 

Regardless of Lexi’s background and family, she’s coming to GVSU with her own story to tell and her own love for the game. Her family couldn’t be more proud to back her up. She’s already making friends with her roommates and teammates for the next year. She’s also excited to be coached by Williams. As a five-year letter winner and three-time MVP for Vermillion High School, she’s bound to do great things when she joins the Lakers next fall.