Lexi Baltes admits academics were not at the forefront of her college selection process.
“The one thing I knew for sure was that I wanted to play basketball in college,” the former St. Charles East standout said. “That was kind of priority No. 1. I chose Illinois Wesleyan because I wanted to win a national championship and they gave me the best opportunity to do that. … That’s the ultimate for somebody like me. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
To be sure, Baltes, a 5-foot-7 junior guard, helped the Titans win the NCAA Division III national championship last season.
“We had kind of an unusual five-guard starting lineup,” Baltes said. “We were very fast and very small. I believe it was really our work ethic. We just outworked other teams.”
While she and her teammates were excelling on the court, Baltes was also achieving a high level of success in the classroom. She was the recipient of the Elite 89 award for having the highest GPA (3.88) among the players on the final four teams in the Division III tournament. The award derives its name from the 89 national championships the NCAA sponsors.
Baltes is majoring in English and political science at Illinois Wesleyan and plans to go on to law school.
“I think my ideal job is to teach law, but that could be a ways out,” she said. “My brother [Kyle] is an attorney. I’ve just always been interested in politics and the Constitution and this country. All those things together just fascinate me.”
Academic success is nothing new for Baltes. She was the valedictorian of her graduating class. She was a four-year letterwinner for the Saints on the basketball court, scoring more than 1,000 points in her career. She earned all-conference accolades three times. She also lettered in tennis, soccer and cross country.
At Illinois Wesleyan, Baltes saw limited time as a freshman coming off the bench. As a sophomore, she played in 33 games and started nine, averaging five points and three rebounds.
This season, Baltes leads the Titans in minutes played and is averaging eight points, six rebounds and four assists per contest.
“I think it’s coming along well,” she says of her game. “My job is to get my team going and make sure we’re doing what we’re supposed to do.”
Illinois Wesleyan (5-3) is ranked 18th in the latest Division III poll.
“We’ve dropped a little bit in the polls,” Baltes said. “We have one of the toughest nonconference schedules in the country. We make it hard at the beginning so we will be ready for the end.”
Baltes knows where she and the Titans need to show improvement.
“Defense is always a main focus for me – individually and as a team,” she said. “That’s how we win games.”
Illinois Wesleyan is set to play Saturday at the Wisconsin-Stevens Point and will participate in the Wartburg Holiday Invitational between Christmas and New Year’s Day. The Titans then start the new year by opening College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW) play Jan. 2 at Wheaton College.
Wicinski, Holthus earn All-American honors: Michigan State junior Lauren Wicinski of Geneva and Northwestern junior Stephanie Holthus of Burlington have been named All-Americans by the American Volleyball Coaches Association. Wicinski, a 6-1 outside hitter, was named to the second team and Holthus, a 5-11 outside hitter, was named to the third team. Wicinski and the Spartans reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Division I tournament before being eliminated last weekend by Michigan.
• Dennis D. Jacobs writes the weekly On Campus column for the Kane County Chronicle. To submit information on area athletes participating in college sports, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.