Exclusive 1-on-1 with Aquinas alum, Iowa State freshman Lexi Donarski

Aquinas alum and Iowa State women’s basketball freshman Lexi Donarski is celebrating her birthday today, and you could say the birthday celebration started a day early, because Donarski dropped 25 points and was 7 of 9 from downtown in Sunday’s win over Texas Tech. Her freshman season is a month and half old and she’s already been named Big 12 Freshman of the Week twice, but that doesn’t mean it’s been easy for her to transition to the D-I level in a middle of a pandemic. I got the chance to chat with her about her experiences over the past six months. Take a look.

As the star of Aquinas, Donarski was as comfortable as you can be on the court. But as an incoming freshman with no team bonding off the court, no real campus life, and no preseason games, Donarski had to jump headfirst into a Division-I starting lineup for her first taste of what the next level feels like.

“I just really didn’t know what to expect,” Donarski said. “It was different, and I hadn’t played a game since March. I didn’t have AAU this summer for the first time, so it was just trying to get back into playing games, which–it had been a really long time, so it was a little weird.”

I asked her about her source of confidence these days, because back with Aquinas, she had to have felt like she was the best on the floor each night, but what happens when you get to this high level?

“When you come to a high college level, everyone was the best player on their high school team and has the same experience, growing up through AAU and all that,” Donarski said. “It’s different playing with such a talented team–not that my teams in the past weren’t talented. We were talented and I had a lot of fun with that, but it’s definitely different and something I haven’t experienced before. It is a lot of fun because each game, someone different will step up.”

If you watch an Iowa State game this season, you won’t see Donarski normally running the offense at point guard, and that for Donarski might be the biggest difference.

“This is the first time I’ve ever done that,” she said, “whether it was AAU, high school, elementary school, anything that I’ve played up to this point–I’ve always been a point guard, so it’s definitely been a transition for me to figure out how to move without the ball more, and setting screens and going off screens, and that type of stuff.”

She’s off to a good start with those two Freshman of the Week honors and 13 points scored a game, second-highest on the Cyclones. She’s shooting 45 percent overall and 41 percent from three-point range.

But when it’s not game time or practice time, how difficult is it maintaining mental health as a D-I athlete these days?

“It’s really difficult, honestly, because there isn’t much we can do that would follow all of the rules we have to follow if we want to have a season, which obviously is our number one priority,” she said. “My roommates and I try to find little stuff, but it’s hard. We can’t–we’re not supposed to be going out to stores or going in places and stuff like that. And we’re not allowed to be with our team or anyone else on campus ever, so it’s challenging.”

One thing she’s done to break up the monotony is catch almost all of Aquinas’s games this season.

“I like watching them, because that was the team I was on last yea,” she said. “I know all the girls and I want to watch my sister play. I talk to my family every day.

“I call them every night, because I’m usually just sitting in my room anyway, and yeah, I let Macy know what I thought about the game and stuff like that,” she smiled.

She added it works the other way too, with dad and Aquinas head coach Dave giving feedback from her Iowa State performances.

11 games into her college career, Donarski says she’s off to a good start and that there’s plenty more to come.

“I still think there’s a lot more I can do to impact this team,” she said, “and I’m just working to get up to that point every day.”