Lexi Held and Sonya Morris look to propel DePaul into another successful season


Alexa Sandler/The DePaulia

DePaul junior Sonya Morris goes up for a jump shot against Marquette on March 9.

DePaul juniors Lexi Held and Sonya Morris are heading into year three with the Blue Demons with high expectations. Not only is the team ranked No. 19 in the preseason Associated Press Top 25 poll, but Held and Morris are also receiving national attention. 

In October, both Morris and Held were named to the Preseason All-Big East Team. But in November, the duo were selected to two national watch lists. 

Morris, who was an All-Big East Second Team selection last season, was featured in the Ann Meyers Drysdale watch list — which includes 19 other shooting guards to look out for this season, with a winner being announced in April.

Held, on the other hand, was named to the Naismith Trophy watch list, which features 49 other players who are in contention to win the prestigious award at the end of the season. 

“I feel like me and Lexi both earned that title, and it gives us motivation for the season just to keep preparing, working hard and get better every day,” Morris said. 

Even with all of the preseason recognition that Morris and Held have received, they also understand that it’s about putting together a successful season in order to receive those rewards in March and April. 

“It’s really exciting to be recognized for the work that we have done last year,” Held said. “[Head Coach Doug] Bruno always talks about we worry about reviews not previews. It’s great to be told that, at the same time, we have to put it into action this year during the season.”

One part of winning these awards at the end of the season is to have signature moments throughout the year. Both Held and Morris have already showcased their ability to step up in big moments during their first two years at DePaul. 

In the case of Held, she was honored as the 2020 Big East Tournament Most Outstanding Player after scoring a career-high 31 points in their championship victory over Marquette. And she has already shown that she is one the conference’s best 3-point shooters, as the 5-foot-10 guard was tied for second in the league with a total of 78 3-pointers. 

Morris’ resume is also filled with standout highlights through two years, including putting together a 29-point, six-assist and five-rebound game against Notre Dame last season. She is also known for being a pesky defender, which is why she led the Big East with 75 steals. 

All of these performances have come as underclassmen and as arguably not the first or second option on offense. Last season, the Blue Demons’ offense was led by seniors Chante Stonewall and Kelly Campbell. Now, with both of them graduating, Held and Morris have the chance to be the focal points of the offense. 

“They are both leading in their own way and that’s the uniqueness of being humans,” Bruno said. “There’s no way Sonya and Lexi are ever going to be Kelly and Chante, and I mean that as people, nor do we want them to be. I want Sonya to be Sonya and Lexi to be Lexi, Kelly to be Kelly and Chante to be Chante. We want them to be the best Sonya leader and Lexi leader they can be. 

“And Sonya is doing that every day by how hard she busts it in practice by being the most aggressive, by being the person that’s throwing her body all over the gym,” Bruno said. “Lexi is demonstrating leadership in a more quiet way, but that’s how I think leadership has to bubble and emerge. The worst thing I can do is make Sonya and Lexi into Kelly and Chante. Everybody leads in their own way and they have done a good job of leading right now.”

As both Held and Morris emerge as leaders in their own right, they are also gaining more confidence heading into year three, according to Bruno. And having a high level of confidence both individually and as a team is key for DePaul because they are going to play some of the nation’s best teams, including hosting No. 13 Texas A&M on Saturday and then facing a perennial top-five team in UConn in the Big East later in the year.

“They are both more confident players,” Bruno said. “That comes with experience, we finished strong last season and they both had very strong finishes. Then, they were rewarded somewhat by our Big East coaches at the end of last season, and then more rewarded preseason this year. I think that helps their confidence, but I think their confidence is growing by what they are doing on the floor every day in practice. They are just getting better every day and you see that confidence to really, exponentially emerge.”

The last time DePaul was able to play a game was back on March 9 in the Big East Tournament championship game, with the NCAA Tournament getting called off because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The team has been practicing and preparing for their season opener, which will finally come on Saturday at Wintrust Arena. 

“I’d say it’s difficult because there are so many guidelines and restrictions, but we are trying to do whatever we can to play because we know what it’s like not playing for the past couple of months,” Held said. “So, it’s challenging to see what we have to do now, wearing masks in practice, but it’s going to be worth it if we are allowed to play.” 

Without the usual amount of practice time and the inability to spend as much time together as a team, Held’s and Morris’ relationship can take away some of the early chemistry issues. And both have already built that chemistry together on the court because they have been starting together since their freshmen year. 

“I feel like since freshman year, the fact that we played a lot together, we have had each other’s back,” Morris said. “I feel like with our experience together we just have been closer, on and off the court honestly. And during practice we both just compete at a really high level, so we make each other better every day. So, I just feel like that’s why I’m so close to Lexi, on top of the laughs, jokes and all of that.”