By BURT ANGELI
IRON MOUNTAIN - Michigan State will be getting more than a talented basketball player when Crystal Falls' Lexi Gussert arrives on campus in 2014.
Andy Hill Photo
Lexi Gussert played in Michigan State’s Breslin Center as a sophomore when Forest Park met Athens in the Class D state semifinals.
Friends and foes can't help but admire other qualities in the Forest Park High School senior who recently made a verbal commitment to attend Michigan State. She can officially sign a letter of intent in November.
Former Forest Park Schools superintendent Tom Jayne, now at Iron Mountain, said "it's not about her ever. It's about the team."
"Best thing about her is she is so unselfish and a great team player," Jayne added. "Lexi is a very unassuming young lady in that she is just one of the girls when it comes to herself and her teammates.
"She is also a very hard worker, a 'gym rat' if you will have it, and that coupled with her natural talent have produced the success everyone sees from her and her teams. She truly makes everyone around her better and is a dedicated team player."
Gina Graff couldn't be happier for her friend and teammate, who weighed scholarship offers from the nation's premier universities.
"I have been close friends with Lexi since we potty trained together," said Graff, a basketball and volleyball teammate with Gussert. "I always knew she would go far and be successful in basketball.
"All of her friends and teammates were so excited for her this last basketball season."
Graff noted that major college scouts visited "what seemed like every game."
With multiple D1 offers, Lex had a hard choice to make, but she knew her team, coaches and friends would support her decision no matter what," Graff said. "I'm happy for her and know that she will do great things at MSU."
Gussert averaged 32.5 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, four steals and four blocked shots this past season where she gained all-state honors. West Iron County's Kylee Erickson had the unenviable task of attempting to stop the Trojans star.
"Lexi is obviously a phenomenal basketball player," Erickson said. "Not only is Lexi such a great player, she has the greatest sportsmanship.
"I look up to her both as a fellow basketball player and person. She will go far in life with such a great attitude and work ethic."
The daughter of Kathy and Scott Gussert has already made one appearance on Michigan State's basketball floor. As a sophomore, Gussert led the Trojans to the state semifinals against Athens.
Despite ringing up 34 points on 14 of 24 shooting, 12 rebounds, five blocks and three steals, the Trojans fell 61-48.
Former Forest Park coach Jerry Hautala has worked with many AAU players who went on to Division 1 college basketball careers. That list includes Misty Bass (Duke) and Jolene Anderson (Wisconsin).
"I have only watched Lexi play once last year (2012) but she can do so many things," said Hautala, noting her ability to score, rebound and find the open player. "She is as good as any of the players I coached. I wish her the best in the future."
Many want to make a comparison to Gussert and Niagara's Anna DeForge, who also dealt with numerous Division 1 college basketball programs before deciding on Nebraska. DeForge later achieved WNBA all-star status and now plays in Europe.
So who's better? Terry Youren, a Kingsford girls basketball assistant and former Niagara head coach, couldn't decide.
"They're both phenomenal," he said.