In 2018, Hannah Lekson had an itch she just couldn’t scratch.
It had been a little more than two years since her last game with the University of Puget Sound Loggers womens basketball team. Her coaches had warned her to prepare for life-after-basketball.
Her post-college days were filled with looking for basketball to watch on TV, going to local college games, and searching nearby rec centers for adult leagues. It wasn’t enough, and that itch started to irritate Lekson.
Then it hit her: Basketball is much bigger than Hannah Lekson, and she had a lot more to offer the game than just playing.
Lekson joined the Peninsula High School girls basketball team as an assistant coach during the 2018-19 season, and this past June the 30-year-old was named the Seahawks new head coach. She replaces Mike Schick, who left earlier this year after five seasons to take a non-basketball-related job in Texas.
“This is an amazing opportunity,” said Lekson, a 2011 PHS graduate and a three-sport athlete for the Seahawks, garnering all-league honors in both soccer and basketball. She also ran track. “I love these girls—I have a close bond with them.”
Although Lekson is very familiar with this team, she said taking over may not be an easy transition for her or them. This is Lekson’s first head-coaching gig, and she admits she’s had to have conversations with the team about roles and relationships. “I was always the fun assistant coach, but now the role is going to change a bit.”
Lekson plans to create a strong culture among her coaching staff, among her players, and then ultimately between the coaches and players. “Of course, I want to win, but I have to get everyone to buy into what we’re doing, and I want to see growth in each player.”
What Lekson lacks in experience, she says she makes up for with resources. She still talks with her former PHS coach, Ann Lovrovich, and her college coaches, Cody Butler (Yakima Valley College), and Loree Payne and Joleen LaMay (University of Puget Sound). Payne is now the head coach at Northern Arizona University and Butler is a former assistant at Boise State, both NCAA Division I schools.
PHS athletic director and football coach Ross Filkins, who hired Lekson, also is supportive of her and the team. “He’s always so responsive and values us,” said Lekson, who has known Filkins for 15 years, ever since he was her high school history teacher.
Lekson and her mom moved to Vaughn in 2008 and she has lived around the area ever since. She grew up in Minnesota, where basketball was so popular during the winter mainly because the gyms are a lot warmer than the near-Arctic temperatures outside. She joined Lovrovich’s team during her sophomore year and helped lead the Seahawks to the district tournament. Lekson tore the anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in her right knee early on in her junior season that forced her out of action that year. She recovered in time for her senior season to draw some interest from local colleges.
Because of her injury, she didn’t have plans to play college ball. That all changed when Butler asked her to join the Yakima Valley College team. She played two winning seasons with the Yaks and claimed she learned and grew a lot during her time at the community college. Then Payne lured Lekson back closer to home to the University of Puget Sound, where Lekson was part of two NCAA Division III tournament teams.
Lekson hopes to use everything from recovering from a serious injury to the college recruitment process to help her Seahawks team.
“I want to be a resource for these girls on and off the court,” she said. “My goal is to help them reach their goals, whether that’s with basketball or anything else. I’m here to support them.”
Lekson takes over a very young but capable team. The Seahawks are coming off a 14-9 (9-5 in the 3A South Sound Conference) season and only have two seniors on the roster. Lekson expects a big season from senior Brooke Zimmerman, who she called “an extremely intelligent, talented and well-rounded player.”
Lekson also called out senior Sophie Casello, junior Kaylia Heidelberg and sophomore Grace Richardson as those who’ve really evolved over the summer. Daisy Peay, a sophomore-transfer from South Kitsap High School, could also make an immediate impact.
“These girls are going to see more structure and will be held to a higher standard than they’ve ever been,” Lekson said. “We’ll be a lot more defensive-minded, and I really want to push these girls because I know what they can do.”
With such a young team, Lekson needs to be forward-thinking, so much so that she even wants to start regularly involving the middle schools that feed into PHS.
“I’m not just wanting to develop a Peninsula High School basketball team, I want to build a Peninsula-wide basketball program,” she said. “I like the ‘we’ mentality.”
Up first for Lekson and the Seahawks is a home game against Spanaway Lake on Tuesday, November 29. Tip-off is at 7 p.m.
“I’m sure that day my heart will be racing, and I’ll be pacing my office,” said Lekson, who is an insurance agent for Sound Business Insurance in Gig Harbor. “I’ll have to race home after work to raid my closet for something to wear that night.”
UNDERWRITTEN BY NEWSMATCH/MIAMI FOUNDATION, THE ANGEL GUILD, ROTARY CLUB OF GIG HARBOR, ADVERTISERS, DONORS AND PEOPLE WHO SUPPORT LOCAL, INDEPENDENT NONPROFIT NEWS