Player Spotlight: Detroit Mercy’s Lexey Tobel
By Seth J. Walker
Not too may women who come out of Livingston County get to play Division I college basketball, but Detroit Mercy’s forward Lexey Tobel is one of them. The 5-11 freshman hails from Hartland, where she helped her team win multiple Class A District championships. Detroit Mercy Titans head coach Bernard Scott saw Tobel play and decided right away that she was a player he wanted for his program.
“I watched her in a tournament out in Mount Pleasant,” Scott said. “I watched her and I liked how accurate she was on both ends of the floor. Plus, she was a young lady who could score a variety of ways, and she played hard all the time. She just caught my eye.”
Tobel would thus join a Titan team coming off two winning seasons after Scott took over, including a thrilling trip to the Horizon League championship game against Green Bay last year. However, the Titans have had they’re struggles, in large part due to the departure of key players from last year’s team. The Titans are currently 1-20 overall and 1-9 in Horizon League play.
“Being a freshman here I feel as if it is different for me because I have not felt what it is like to be successful at this level yet,” Tobel said. “We try and stick together no matter how much adversity we face. As you can imagine that it is pretty hard, but we have not given up yet (and) we have nothing to lose and there are still games to be played and games that can be won.”
It has been the positive attitude that Tobel continues to display that has impressed Scott this season, even as the team has struggled overall to win games and started earlier this season, but now comes off the bench, though still getting key minutes.
“All I tell her is don’t worry, we’re not going to stay here,” Scott said. “We have good talent coming in, and the players that are here will be better.”
Tobel is part of a young nucleus of players that is expected to grow and improve together, also consisting of sophomores Anja Marinkovic, Ashley Miller, and Zoey Oatis. For Tobel however, she’s had to learn a new role. In high school, she was primarily a guard, but now has switched over to being more of a post player who can be very versatile, like Haleigh Ristovski was for the Titans. This has led Tobel to working very closely with assistant coach Tara Fleming, who works with the post players on the team.
“Coach T has had an incredible impact on me,” Tobel said. “We are constantly in the gym working on my shot and defense, no matter how busy she is, she will always make time to get in the gym with me. I have never played post before and she has really helped me improve in all aspects of the game in this position.”
Tobel has formed a close bond with teammate Lola Ristovski, a junior, who’s become a surrogate big sister for her. Ristovski, having two older sisters herself, current assistant coach, Madison, and former teammate, Haleigh, can identify with having someone to take her under her wing.
“When I first got to Detroit, Lola helped me figure out all of the basics of college, and this helped my transition go smoothly,” Tobel said. “The rest of the girls on my team also have helped me in different ways adjust to the college life, they make sure I always know I have someone to talk to about anything not just basketball.”
For every player, especially at the Division I level, there comes that moment where it dawns on them that they’re playing college basketball. For Tobel, it came at one key moment during the Titan’s grueling non-conference schedule.
“The moment I felt “this is truly a dream come true” was when we played Michigan State at home,” Tobel said. “As a kid I was a huge State fan because both my aunt and uncle graduated from there, so I was basically bred into being a fan. When I steeped on the court and recognized some of the girls I had idolized most of my life it really sank in that I had accomplished something very special.”
Scott sees Tobel as a player with great upside that will help lead the Titans in the future. In the meantime, Tobel will take the lessons from this season, and use them as motivation going forward to help the Titans return to their successful ways.
“I will work on bringing my all to each practice no matter how my body might feel,” Tobel said. “I would like to continue motivating my team to never give up no matter the circumstances, there are still games to be played, and a game that all of us love and we cannot take that for granted because we have a great opportunity here.”