EUGENE, Ore. -- The University of Oregon Women's basketball team is set to begin their run at the NCAA tournament Friday. While they are working toward their goals on the court, they are also acting as role models for younger athletes.
Lexi Bando, is one of the players who has been a leader on the team, but before she became a Duck, she attended Willamette High School where she played on multiple state championship teams. One of her former coaches, Lance Haas, who is also the athletic director for Willamette High School, said it has been a great feeling watching her have success and that her hard work at Willamette has paid off.
Haas said in high school, she was known for her hard work and competitive spirit. He said Bando is a role model for other girls playing basketball at Willamette High and in the community.
"There is a level of excitement with our girls basketball players when they come through and they get a chance to see the banners and see the photos and see the blue trophies and to be able to say, 'hey I could be that person,' or 'she did play here so anything's possible,' it's very inspirational," Haas said.
Former University of Oregon Player Bev Smith is now the director of Kidsports in Eugene. Kidsports provides sports opportunities to kids and teaches them about strong work ethics and teamwork.
Smith said when teaching those lessons, they often look to University of Oregon athletes, especially Bando, who Smith said got her start playing for Kidsports when she was young.
"Lexi is a real living example of just the opportunity you do have to even start from some humble beginnings like from Kidsports and Willamette to the national level," Smith said.
Smith said the tournament is a good opportunity for the community and for young children to see the practical application of the lessons they learn at Kidsports. Haas echoed her sentiment with advice to students that with hard work, determination and competitive spirits, young athletes can accomplish whatever they want both on and off the court.