Parkite Lauren Pederson is suiting up for the Miners on the hardwood for the first time ever
Less than a month ago, Park City senior Lauren Pederson sat at a table in front of the high school’s main office. Flanked by her parents and her twin brother, Andrew, Pederson signed her name on a document.
This wasn’t just any ordinary document, though; it signified an upcoming, four-year adventure as Pederson signed her national letter of intent to play lacrosse for the University of Virginia.
The Cavaliers are one of the premier NCAA Division I programs.
“Lacrosse is everything to me and I’m really excited to be able to play at the college level,” Pederson said at signing day. “The day has finally come so it feels really good to finally be here. It’s so exhilarating you almost can’t really explain the feeling. … But its time to keep working keep grinding and get better and better every day.”
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But before Pederson can begin that next journey in her life and conquer the lacrosse field, she’s now started a new journey on a different type of playing field; the basketball court.
After never playing organized basketball a day in her life, Pederson not only tried out for the Miners, she made the team and has become an instrumental player for Park City.
“I’m not lying when I say I’ve never played on a real basketball court, let alone a basketball team,” Pederson said while laughing. “My background in basketball literally just comes from playing HORSE with Andrew and (other brother) Beau. We would just mess around and shoot, nothing serious at all, so it’s been quite an adventure so far.”
And she wasn’t joking when she said it’s been an adventure. Her journey to the basketball court only started when she decided to give up another sport she loved.
Pederson began her high school career as a two-sport athlete swimming for the Miners during the winter before donning her lacrosse gear in the spring. While she used swimming to get into shape for lacrosse, there were other reasons that led her to the pool and, eventually, the court.
“Swimming is a great sport and I really do love it, but it began to become something where I wasn’t having as much fun anymore,” Pederson said. “In my family, if you’re not doing another sport then you have to pick up a hobby, community service or something else so you’re not sitting around. So I thought, why not try basketball?”
Pederson said joining the Miners gives her a chance to bond and make memories with other girls in school. She also figured that her athletic ability on a lacrosse field would not only benefit her on the basketball court, but whatever she learned on the hardwood would help prepare her for spring.
Because of the athleticism that earned Pederson a Division I scholarship, Park City coach Brett Isaacson was thrilled to welcome her to the team. He remembers the first time he saw her play lacrosse, but when she showed up to the basketball team meeting back in the spring, he had trouble placing where he recognized her from.
“I remember originally seeing her on the lacrosse field and just being impressed with her size, knowing instantly that was an athlete,” Isaacson said. “But when she came to the meeting with her mom, I had no idea who she was. Then someone said, ‘This is Lauren and she plays lacrosse,’ and I put two and two together and started to get excited about the potential for someone like her.”
Pederson remembers that meeting as well, but has a totally different view of how it went compared to what Isaacson was thinking.
“I just remember sitting down, watching everyone shooting and dribbling around and thinking ‘oh gosh, I’m about to get wrecked’” Pederson said while laughing. “But I was raised to finish something out once you start it, so since I told people I was already going to play, I was going to follow through and finish.”
Isaacson is happy Pederson decided to stick with it, because the combination of her 5-foot-11 stature and athleticism made her a prime candidate to contribute in Isaacson’s “mayhem” style of play.
“In our system, our bigs immediately guard the ball handler once the ball is inbounded.” Isaacson said. “She’s quick enough laterally that she can defend the fastest of guards, and that’s huge for us. But because she’s so fast and athletic that when she gets beat, she can turn and sprint to cut that player off and turn them, allowing for another trap.”
Although Isaacson said it’s been fun to coach Pederson, both of them realize that she still has a long ways to go on the court.
For Pederson, it’s about continuing to learn the finer parts of the game like staying out of foul trouble. While the fine points of rules like traveling have been difficult to learn, Pederson believes she’s getting better and is seeing the rewards of all the hard work start to pay off.
As for Isaacson, he just wants her to keep playing hard because that’s where she makes the biggest difference. Yes she’s arguably the best athlete out there, but he also says Pederson’s one of the hardest working players on the team and as the lone senior, she’s embraced that ‘lead by example’ role.
“For her to be so dominant in one sport and then try something like this, it proves there’s no ego with her,” Isaacson said. “That’s something that can’t be taught, and that’s what makes her so special as an athlete. She’s got a big time scholarship and a future planned out, but she’s out here everyday working just as hard, if not harder, than anyone else to be better.”
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It’s going to be at least another month before Summit County’s high school athletes have any chance of getting onto the field again.