Atwater’s Valencia twins make college choice official
If you wanted to measure the impact the Valencia twin sisters had during their four years at Atwater High, all you had to do was show up at the school library Tuesday morning.
It was a standing-room only crowd, as many of their classmates, teammates, family members and coaches showed up to celebrate the signing day of Kelsey and Lexi Valencia. The twin 18-year-olds have accepted basketball scholarships to Dakota Wesleyan University.
One by one, the principal, athletic director, associate principal, activities director and coaches each approached the podium and spoke about how the Valencia sisters will be missed at Atwater High. They talked about their strong work ethic, their leadership and how they’ve inspired not only their peers, but the staff during their time at the school.
Activities director Nathan Braga talked about how much time they sacrifice to plan and put on school events. Kelsey is student body president and Lexi is vice-president. For the past two years Braga has been able to put the Valencia sisters in charge of events like the Make-A-Wish rally or homecoming events.
“As freshman, I watched them work,” said Atwater basketball coach JR Davis. “I don’t know too many girls who could do a volleyball game and come back at like 8 o’clock at night and run in the gym, (and) change clothes so they can shoot around and practice. Their work ethic is just amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever coached any female athlete that was able to endure what their bodies did, for the 78 pounds they came in at. As freshman, Kelsey did volleyball and cross country at the same time.”
Kesley played varsity basketball all four years at Atwater, becoming the first member of the 1,000-career point club. She was named the conference MVP and Merced Sun-Star Player of the Year after averaging 16.7 points, 8 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 4.8 steals per game to help lead the Falcons to their first Central California Conference championship since 1988.
Lexi played three years of varsity and joined Kelsey in the 1,000-point club. She was an all-CCC first-team selection this season after averaging 13.6 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.1 assists.
An even more important stat: Lexi has a 3.7 GPA and Kelsey has a 3.6 GPA.
“This is one of those things that is better than a championship,” Davis said. “Seeing your players get this opportunity. You don’t see it too much in girls basketball. It’s hard to get a basketball scholarship, especially in little old Atwater.”
Neither sister thought this was possible upon entering high school. Davis described them both as “boney.”
“We didn’t think we’d get here,” Kelsey said. “It was a goal. We talked about it. We wrote it down. As it went along and we started getting interest, my main goal was to find a place that had the same family atmosphere that we had here at Atwater. We wanted a school that felt tight-knit.”
Both twins found that at Dakota Wesleyan University.
“At first we were like South Dakota? Then we go there and we ended up loving it,” Lexi said.
“Just driving by the campus reminded me of Atwater,” Kelsey said. “It just looks like our quad at Atwater expanded.”
Their college decision ultimately came down to Dakota Wesleyan or Fresno City College.
They said it was tough to say no to Rams coach Alex Fletcher, but going the junior college route meant they’d have to go through the recruiting process again in two years. They also didn’t want to have to reset again in two years and establish themselves in another program.
The Valencias thanked all their coaches, including their travel ball coaches who showed up on Tuesday.
Their signing day also fell on their 18th birthday.
“Our first adult decision,” Lexi said. “Best birthday ever.”