March 29, 2023
The game is slowing down for Lexie Hull, and that’s huge for the Indiana Fever
'The more and more we talk to vets, they say the game starts to slow down and I think I'm starting to feel that a little bit with the experience' — Lexie Hull
Lexie Hull showed flashes of skill and growth during her rookie season with the Indiana Fever — most notably during the last four games when she averaged 12.0 points and 3.3 rebounds per game while shooting 35.7% from deep. Her defense was usually solid. There were bright spots for the 2022 sixth-overall pick.
Unfortunately for the Fever and Hull, those bright spots were just that — spots. Her shooting accuracy wasn’t always where it needed to be while her passing and vision came and went. At Stanford, she shined in these areas, but they never materialized in year one of WNBA play.
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Some of that can be attributed to general rookie inconsistency, something that plagued several Fever players during their first campaign. Other parts of it came as a result of playing with a fresh roster that had essentially no chemistry when the year opened, something that wasn’t the case as a Cardinal. Combined, those two trials will make the game fly by, and it’s hard to be impactful when your mind is going faster than your body.
That’s why this offseason has been key for Hull. There hasn’t been any school work or pre-draft process to focus on. Instead, it has been a much-needed break followed by a ton of basketball. The 23-year-old participated in multiple three-on-three circuits and Athletes Unlimited, giving her several opportunities to go against some of the World’s best players in game action.
Those reps have been valuable, according to the Fever guard. “The more and more we talk to vets, they say the game starts to slow down. And I think I’m starting to feel that a little bit with the experience and with the experience playing against great teams and great players,” Hull said of her offseason this week. “So definitely hoping the game slows more and more down, but we’re on the right track with that, I think.”
There’s a natural hesitancy that comes with playing in a faster-paced basketball environment. When your opposition is bigger and faster than ever before, so many little things — like positioning, angles, and timing — become important. Details can make or break a game, and it’s important to master them. But at the same time, thinking about those details, possession after possession is draining, and it leads to arrhythmic and unnatural movement.
When those details become more habitual, as they do with time and reps, then the game tends to slow down. According to Hull, that happened this offseason.
In Indiana, the Washington native worked out with Fever coaches, especially assistant Jhared Simpson, to improve her skills. With Team USA in three-on-three environments, she worked with other pros — including Fever forward Emily Engstler — and gained valuable experience with the ball in her hands. All of that will prop up Hull this season.
Then, in Athletes Unlimited (AU), she popped. Her 36 numbers were solid: 13.4 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 2.5 assists. She improved throughout her 15 appearances and finished eighth in AU’s unique scoring system by the end of the season.
What really stood out was Hull’s defense, which was also debatably her best skill in the WNBA as a rookie. Hull got the chance to defend players like Kelsey Mitchell, Allisha Gray and Natasha Cloud in AU, and those reps will be significant come April when training camp opens up in Indiana.
But it was more than just a growth opportunity for Hull. It was also a chance to show off her skills. She was the best defender in AU this season, slowing down some of the World’s best players, and was named Defensive Player of the Year in the competition. Her talent on the less glamorous end of the floor was impressive.
“I think it just kind of gave me some confidence on the defensive end that I can really guard anyone,” Hull said. “And I’m not afraid of that challenge,” she added, noting that this experience has her excited about year two.
The WNBA Draft is still to come, and no team has finalized their training camp roster yet. But Hull will have to prove that some of this growth will help her in the WNBA this season when camp opens. Depending on how the next few weeks go, there could be a battle for the final spots on Indiana’s roster.
That said, if the game continues to slow down for Hull when WNBA play resumes, that’s huge for her and the Fever. She will be able to play more naturally and more like herself. Hull will be able to make quicker reads. Less thinking will lead to more execution, especially if her shots go down.
Such a boost leads to more options on the court. If a player can quickly make decisions, they can skate past closeouts or quickly fire the ball to the right teammate. Being a threat opens up everything, which will help Indiana in a major way.
It will help Hull, too. If her strong winter translates to the WNBA court, the young guard could turn into the player the Fever hoped she would be when she was drafted in 2022. A new coach with a defensive mindset should seamlessly mesh with Hull’s skillset, which should be good for both parties. A successful offseason will elevate Hull’s skills; now it’s up to her to take advantage of a slowed-down game when the WNBA season starts.