By Terry Boehmker
NKyTribune Sports Journalist
Lexi Held had a job planned before she graduated from DePaul University a few weeks ago, but the 22-year-old former Boone County resident’s marketing degree won’t come in very handy when she will report to work in September.
Held has signed a contract with a professional women’s basketball team in Sweden. After his highly successful college career at DePaul, the 5-foot-10 guard attracted a lot of interest from overseas teams and decided to join the Norrkoping Dolphins in a town about 100 miles southwest of the nation’s capital. Stockholm.
“For my first time abroad, I kind of wanted an environment where I would be happy and where I would acclimate really easily with people who I know have my best interests in mind,” said Held. “And obviously the basketball part was big, so once I learned more about them, I was definitely convinced to go.”
Norrkoping won Sweden’s Women’s Premier League playoffs last season and finished with a 28-9 record.
The Dolphins had three players from the United States in the starting lineup for this championship team and decided to seek more.
Held said her agent put her in touch with the Norrkoping coaching staff and they made her an offer which she accepted.
“Different teams and countries all have their own way of doing it,” she said of her professional contract. “Where I am going, I will have accommodation, a car, a salary, food, so I will be taken care of.”
Held graduated in 2018 from Cooper High School. She scored over 2,430 points during her college career and finished her senior season with the second-highest scoring average in the state at 28.3 points per game.
At DePaul, she started 89 consecutive games over the past three seasons and the Blue Demons went 64-26 with her in the lineup. She ranks 16th on the team’s all-time scoring list with 1,578 points and fifth in 3-point shooting with 238.
Both of those career totals could have been higher had Held not gone from shooter to playmaker for his senior season. Her scoring average dropped to 12.7 points per game, but she averaged 5.2 assists while leading a DePaul offense that posted the best scoring average (87.3) in Division I women’s basketball. from the NCAA last season.
“It was definitely an adjustment just because I was always like a scorer and on the wing,” Held said of the move to point guard. “I mean coach (Doug) Bruno didn’t say, ‘No more goals’, when he put me there. It felt like I was able to do both, which actually helped me because now I can call myself a combo guard and it opens up a lot more opportunities for me in the professional field.
DePaul lost in the NCAA Women’s Tournament qualifying round and finished the season with a 22-11 record. Weeks later, Held agreed to a training camp deal with last year’s WNBA champion Chicago Sky. She spent three weeks training with the team before being released ahead of the start of this season.
“They’re the defending WNBA champions, so it was really exciting to be a part of that and to get to know and learn from the best,” Held said.
“It gave me more confidence than anything I can compete in this league,” she added. “You go in not knowing what to expect and I really felt like I was holding on, so I’m excited to keep working on that. The main goal for me is to make the league, from now.
The first step towards this goal will be to play for the defending champions of the Swedish first professional league. Held will begin preparing for this next phase of her career after spending part of the summer with her older sister in San Diego.
In phone conversations with the Norrkoping manager, Held asked what role she would play during the team’s 2022-23 season which kicks off in October.
“They want me to be more like a wing scorer, which is kind of what I wanted, but they also said they would like me to help (the playmaker) sometimes, which is another times something I’m fine with,” she says.
“The goal is to go overseas and smash it and hopefully have another opportunity at training camp here in the WNBA next year.”