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Finding happiness in basketball again paying off for Gina Marxen with Montana Lady Griz

Posted at 6:47 PM, Feb 28, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-28 20:58:57-05

MISSOULA — The Montana Lady Griz have their final two home games of the season this week starting Thursday with Eastern Washington and Saturday against Idaho.

The UM seniors will be celebrated this week as they play their final games in Dahlberg Arena. Among them is guard Gina Marxen, who has been a core leader for the Lady Griz this season as the basketball campaign winds down.

The senior from Sammamish, Wash., owns a unique perspective on the game of basketball, not because of what she's done on the court, but unlike most athletes, she found that vantage point after giving the game up after three decorated seasons at the University of Idaho.

"During that year that I hadn't played, I really didn't feel like I missed it all," Marxen said. "I didn't touch a basketball. I watched some games, but I didn't really feel like I wanted to be out there."

Montana State at Montana women's basketball
University of Montana senior Gina Marxen (22) moves the ball during the Brawl of the Wild at Dahlburg Arena in Missoula, MT on February 17, 2024.

Marxen was the Big Sky Conference freshman of the year in 2018-19 and was also a two-time all-league player at Idaho and scored 954 points in three seasons.

But the stresses of the game and college athletics made her ability to enjoy the game difficult to continue.

"I think my first couple years of playing, I was just, you know, under a lot of pressure," Marxen said. "And I think I put a lot of that pressure on myself to perform and basically be perfect. And then, with experience, you realize that's not possible to be perfect, but you can always improve."

Marxen then left the program at Idaho and stopped playing basketball altogether and just became a regular student. But after taking a year off, something changed, and that itch to play basketball returned.

So, as she returned, her priorities and goals became to win, but more importantly, be happy.

"It's the best decision I've ever made," Marxen said about coming to Montana. "It was definitely a scary one at the time. I didn't really know exactly what to expect, as far as you know, taking a year off, and then jumping right back into it. But I mean, I wouldn't have changed anything, I love it here, I've been so happy that I've came back, but also I've had the opportunity to have this extra year as well to just really just spend the last year of my life playing basketball, just having fun.

"I was honestly honored coming in. When I first came in, I felt like a freshman, you know, like, I have no idea what's going on. I don’t know the people, the school, but I knew basketball. And honestly, it was nice, because I knew like mostly the people in the conference just from playing against them. So I had that experience as well. But I was honored that, I mean, my teammates and my coaches still trusted me even though I had taken that year off and I was new."

After entering the transfer portal, Marxen connected with Montana's coaching staff after a mutual acquaintance brought the two together, and she found a home with the Lady Griz last season.

In two seasons, she has become a team leader and veteran presence who has fit seamlessly at Montana as a scoring threat from deep who can drive and defend and also leads the team in assists with 4 per game. After being a full-time starter last year, Marxen has filled the role of first sub off the bench for UM, but she's started in the last four games for Montana and on the season is averaging 10.4 points per game while shooting at a 39.4 percent clip from deep. In total, Marxen has scored 592 points at Montana and dished 200 assists.

"I think the number one key of enjoying it, but also staying locked in, is just leaning on my teammates and them leaning on me," Marxen said. "We have big goals for this team. And I know that we can accomplish them because we are a great team full of great people. And we love playing with each other."

After college, Marxen is eyeing playing pro basketball overseas while also pursuing dental school after that. She already has a bachelor's degree in multidisciplinary studies and will finish another bachelor's in psychology this spring.

Perspective is everything, and Marxen's appreciation has grown as she winds down her career in the stretch run.

"You just start to really appreciate every opportunity you have to be on this court, be with your teammates, be with your coaches," Marxen said. "And so that's kind of gonna be my mindset going into it. You know, enjoy the practices, enjoy the games, enjoy traveling with each other just while we still have it."