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Provo • Of all the things BYU women's basketball star Lexi Eaton Rydalch has accomplished in her spectacular career, the most impressive one might have taken place in the Marriott Center seats instead of on the court.
The senior who recently became the all-time leading scorer in West Coast Conference women's basketball history and the second-leading scorer ever at BYU has somehow managed to get an extended family of dyed-in-the-wool University of Utah fans to support a Cougar sports team.
"You can spot them in the stands," she said. "They are wearing blue. They can't bring themselves to wear the 'Y' yet, but they support me and the blue. They are awesome."
OK, it is a bit of a stretch to count that among the amazing feats of Superwoman, considering that coach Jeff Judkins ranks her among the five best players he's ever coached, but the partial transformation of many members of Oakley's Rydalch family from red to blue is still extraordinary to those who know them best.
The former Lexi Eaton got the ball rolling last summer by marrying Trevor Rydalch, the son of one of Utah's better former players, Mark Rydalch, and nephew of another one-time Ute captain, Craig Rydalch.
An all-stater in basketball, football and soccer and second in the high jump in the state 2A track meet while at South Summit High, Trevor ended up at BYU partly because of Judkins, a family friend and former Ute who convinced him the dark side wasn't all that dastardly.
He just missed making the BYU men's basketball team after surviving several rounds of tryouts, so he accepted Judkins' offer to be a practice player for the women's team. That's when he met Lexi for the first time.
"My dad said he'd never wear blue until he saw the name Rydalch on the back of a BYU jersey," Trevor said. "Well, it has happened perhaps a little differently than he expected."
It almost didn't happen. Trevor rebounded for Lexi a couple times a week and the two dated a little bit for eight months before he left on a two-year LDS Church mission to Uruguay. He figured she would be "long gone" by the time he returned "because a lot of other guys were also chasing her."
To stand out from the crowd, Trevor says he would suggest shooting/rebounding sessions, followed by one-on-one contests where the "winner buys dinner."
"That's how I would rope her into a date with me," he said, laughing.
Lexi's version is a bit less romantic.
"He was one of the practice players I had to guard every day, because he was one of the fastest, and that is typically my assignment, the athletic, fast guards," she said. "So that's how we met."
Lexi blew out the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee on Dec. 2, 2012 against Utah State, a few months after Trevor had left on his mission. They exchanged letters for nearly two years, and when he returned "it felt like we were best friends," Trevor said.
A business major who says he's prepared to take a pause from his schooling while Lexi chases her dream in the WNBA or overseas, Trevor didn't re-join the practice team, but instead focused on improving Lexi's skills as she started to focus on giving professional basketball a try.
Last summer, he woke up at 3:30 a.m. every morning and went to the gym with her to help her work on defense. Trevor played offense in one-one-one situations for an hour straight, challenging his future bride to stop him.
"He is a great athlete, an all-stater," Lexi said. "He definitely has been a great asset to me, and a support. We trained all summer long, played one-on-one games that were tough, and I wasn't happy after all of them, per se, because I hate losing. But he was definitely there to push me, and allowed me to develop my defensive game, even more."
Trevor said his grandparents Utah season ticket-holders for basketball and football and especially his father, who made 145 3-pointers for the Utes in a career that started in 1989, have gradually warmed to cheering on the Cougars. Even Craig Rydalch has managed to make it down to Provo for a women's game.
"They are definitely supportive," Lexi said. "Trevor's parents have been to every home game, and some road trips, even, like Hawaii. But there is still that Utah blood in them. You can't give it up when you are a former player and stuff. But they cheer me on."
Trevor said it is "special to me" to see how much his family has supported his new bride, who grew up in nearby Springville and was the two-time Utah Female Athlete of the Year and two-time Gatorade Utah Girls Basketball Player of the Year.
Lexi passed Tresa Spaulding Hamson (2,309 points) two weeks ago to become BYU's second-leading scorer and now has 2,369. Tina Gunn Robison's record of 2,759 is likely out of reach with three regular-season games remaining plus the WCC tournament and either the NCAA Tournament or the WNIT, but Rydalch has surprised her critics before, especially those who thought she couldn't return to form after the devastating knee injury.
The Cougars (22-4, 14-1) have a huge showdown on Thursday at home against San Diego (7 p.m., BYUtv) and can clinch the regular-season title with a win over the 11-4 Toreros.
"Did I think when I recruited her that she'd be the second-leading scorer in BYU history and the leading scorer in the conference? No," Judkins said. "I thought she'd be a really, really, good player. But she has worked hard to be able to be there, She's one kid I've never had to motivate. She's a tough kid. Not many players will come to you and say, 'Coach, will you get on me more? Will you push me more?' That's the kind of kid she is. She will be successful where ever she goes in life."
With a family of Ute fans front and center watching it happen.
email@example.com Twitter: @drewjay
Lexi Eaton Rydalch's big year
July 14, 2015 • Married practice player Trevor Rydalch, a former all-stater at South Summit High
Dec. 5, 2015 • Scored 28 points and earned tournament MVP honors as BYU upset No. 11 Texas A&M 72-64 at Tom Weston Classic
Dec. 12, 2015 • Scored 29 points to lead BYU past rival Utah 73-59 at the Marriott Center
Jan. 29, 2016 • Became the all-time leading scorer in WCC history (2,235) with a 31-point effort in win at Loyola Marymount
Feb. 11, 2016 • Made a shot from just inside the half-court line with one second left to give BYU a 65-62 win over San Francisco
BYU Women's Basketball All-Time Scoring Leaders
2,759 • Tina Gunn Robison (1976-80)
2,369 • Lexi Eaton Rydalch (2011-16)
2,309 • Tresa Spaulding Hamson (1983-87)
2,191 • Jackie Beene McBride (1978-82)
2,061 • Erin Thorn (1999-2003)