Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

April 2, 2013

Assisting on more than just the court

By Justin Whitaker

— A basketball player who typically takes the most shots and scores the most points on their team can sometimes be labeled a ballhog, but for Tri-West senior guard Lauren DeSutter, one of the top scorers in Indiana, selflessness is just one of her many traits.

DeSutter averaged 22.3 points and 5.1 steals per game as she led the Bruins to a 16-6 record this past season. The four-year varsity guard finished her career with her name highlighted 10 times in the Tri-West record books and graduates as the winningest player in school history.

While her basketball accomplishments alone could carry DeSutter, she’s not limited to only the hardwood. Whether it’s academics, pageants, coaching youth basketball, teaching, or playing other sports, she brings it in everything she does.

Well, nearly everything.

“Oh, I’m an awful dancer,” DeSutter said after being asked what she’s not good at doing. “Like awful, not going to lie.”

Starting young

Jeanna DeSutter got a hint of the athlete she had on her hands when her daughter’s second word spoken was “ball.” Lauren’s fascination with soccer balls, basketballs, and even bouncy balls as a young child served as an introduction into sports.

“From the minute she could talk, all she ever wanted was a ball,” Jeanna said.

When Lauren started playing youth soccer at the age of 4, she scored so many goals that the coaches would only let her score with her left foot.

There wasn’t a specific moment when the DeSutter’s knew their youngest daughter would be a talented athlete, it just happened as she started playing organized sports.

“From the time she was old enough to play against other kids, it was easy to tell that she was going to be good,” Jeanna said.

Her sports prowess was not genetic. While her sister, Alex, swam at TWHS, Jeanna was a cheerleader and did gymnastics. Lauren’s father, John, was in a band.

“They didn’t know anything about basketball ... which they claim to now,” Lauren joked.

When Lauren started playing basketball at 5, she quickly became queen of the neighborhood games on her driveway.

“Everyday I would play with the neighborhood boys and they didn’t like playing with me because they would lose,” she said.

As she got older, those games turned into 2-on-1 matchups where Lauren would pass to herself as her own teammate and occasionally even play in inline skates.

“I wanted it to be fair,” she laughed. “They weren’t very good at basketball so I decided to make it a little more challenging and throw on the roller blades and see if it would work.”

She won even in the inline skates, but that was a long time ago.

“It’s a lot different nowadays as they’ve gotten bigger and stronger,” she said of her neighborhood playmates. “But that’s how it used to be.”

The DeSutters caught their fair share of Indiana Pacers games over the years as Lauren’s favorite player was Reggie Miller. She was also a fan of Purdue women’s basketball and attended multiple camps getting autographs from all of her favorite Lady Boilermakers.

Those camps helped her develop as a player and honed her shot to the reliable motion that it is today. Lauren used to flick her thumb alongside the ball because she wasn’t strong enough to push it. She got a tip of putting a penny in the crease between her thumb and index finger to sharpen her shooting form.

She would start in front of the rim and make 100 shots without the penny dropping. If the penny drops, it meant she was moving her hand. After making her first set of 100, she would take five steps back and start the process over and then take another five steps back.

Lauren said she started doing the penny drill in middle school and didn’t stop until she got the motion down.

“I still do flick the ball a little bit, but it definitely helped me because it made me use my legs a lot more, which is what you need to do if you get tired anyways in a basketball game,” she said. “I think it really helped, especially with the repetition of shots. One of those 100 shots was the free throw. I think that’s where I get my free throw percentage from.”

On the court

Tri-West girls’ basketball coach Brad Acton said he looks for certain things in the middle schoolers he evaluates as they prepare to make the leap to high school.

The 10th-year Bruins coach noticed immediately that DeSutter was a good teammate and that she was very coachable and basketball aware.

“I’m not sure if Lauren ever improved on those things because from day one she was a special kid,” Acton said.

DeSutter won two sectional titles, her freshman and junior seasons, and compiled a 68-21 record during her four years at TWHS.

She owns single-game records for most 3-pointers (7), steals (11) and is tied for points (37). Season records in DeSutter’s name are free throw percentage (86.3), 3-point percentage (43.3), steals (116), scoring (490), and as a part of 2012’s team offense (61.2). DeSutter’s career records are in free throw percentage (80.9) and steals (365).

Her handprints litter the Bruins’ record books.

“It means the world to me,” she said. “It shows me that my hard work finally has paid off. That what I worked for my whole life is, I know it’s in print too, but that I can tell myself now that I’ve accomplished what I wanted do. Even though I’m still going to go further like after college, I’m able to leave my mark on Tri-West like I wanted to.”

She fell 30 points shy of the career scoring record, a honor that her friend Sam Ricks owns.

“It really stinks, but the girl that has it is one of my close friends so of course I teased her about possibly getting her record,” DeSutter said. “It’s hard to get within that many points of the biggest record probably here, but to be that close is a huge accomplishment for me. Even though my name isn’t up there, it’s something that I know I could have done.”

Acton described DeSutter as a confident player, but not a cocky one.

“If someone is scoring the most or you’re setting up plays for her, there are going to be some kids who are jealous but with Lauren, because of the type of individual she is, you never saw that ever,” he said.

From a complimentary scorer as a freshman to a primary scorer and distributor as a senior, Acton said he could always count on DeSutter to fit her role perfectly.

“She understands the game so well,” he said. “She makes everyone on the floor better and the things on and off court show she’s just a special young lady.”

She was voted as the team’s mental attitude award winner her freshman season, showing that the veteran group of players harbored no resentment toward the first-year player.

“They welcomed me in and since I started as a freshman I was a little worried of them being mad that a freshman was starting instead of them but they were all really appreciative of me,” she said.

One of her greatest basketball memories came Jan. 25 in an 80-46 victory against Danville on homecoming night and her last game at home. DeSutter scored 37 points, set the single season points record, and tied the most points scored in a game. That same night she was also crowned homecoming queen.

“Being able to have that great of a game was really a big thing for me and I knew I was really close to the season scoring record and I really wanted to get it at Tri-West,” she said. “It still would have been special if I had gotten it, but I know that I didn’t have anymore home games left. To have that kind of game at my last game at Tri-West is something that meant a great deal to me.”

While basketball is her favorite sport, DeSutter squeezed in volleyball her freshman and sophomore seasons before getting the itch to play soccer again for her final two years.

“I’m really glad that I did,” she said. “All of the soccer girls really took me in instead of ‘Oh, she’s a junior, she’s the new girl.’ They all took me in because they wanted the team to be better. I’m really glad I did soccer.”

Outside the gym

While basketball is what DeSutter made the most noise in, she’s looking forward to a future of students and players listening to her. She’s continuing her basketball career at Franklin College in the fall, where she’ll major in elementary education.

When she was talking to college coaches, her first question was about her major. If the school didn’t have it, they were immediately off the list. Franklin having 100 percent placement of its elementary teachers last year and the college’s educational reputation were helpful deciding factors.

“My education matters most to me because that’s what I’m going to be doing after college,” DeSutter said.

She credits Katherine Hamstra, her fifth-grade teacher at Pittsboro Elementary School, with her career choice.

“Ever since the fifth grade, I’ve wanted to be a teacher because she made such a big impact on my life and I wanted to be able to make that big of impact in kids’ lives,” DeSutter said.

Hamstra has DeSutter in the classroom again this year, but this time as a cadet teacher.

“She is such a good person that the fact that she feels like I’ve influenced her is amazing,” Hamstra said. “I can’t say enough good things about her. I can’t.”

While some high school seniors catch severe cases of senioritis and just coast and relax, DeSutter is the opposite. She spends three days a week, free time that she could have, working with Hamstra’s fifth-graders. The students seem to adore the teacher they call “Miss D.”

“They do respond to her,” Hamstra said. “They do treat her like a teacher and they want her. When she’s not here, they’ll ask, ‘Is Miss D. here?’ They miss her when she’s not here.”

Hamstra said she remembers what DeSutter was like as a fifth-grader.

“She was one of those kids that no matter what group or clique or whatever, everybody liked her,” Hamstra said. “She was friends with everybody, even if they weren’t ‘cool.’ She would be a friend, she would partner up with them, or she would help ... She was just so kind and gentle to everybody.”

At the end of February, DeSutter was one of 19 selected from across the state for the 54th annual Distinguished Young Women of Indiana competition.

Not traditionally the pageant-type, one of her friends convinced her to compete in the local competition where she won and advanced to the week-long competition in Kokomo.

“It’s not really my thing, even though it’s not called a pageant, it’s kind of like a pageant,” DeSutter said. “But I wanted to see if I could do it and I’m glad that I did because I gained confidence in myself that I can accomplish whatever I want to.”

There were dance numbers, self-expression segments, and talent showcases. For her talent in the competition, she used her basketball skills for a Harlem Globetrotter routine complete with the “Sweet Georgia Brown” whistling. It included combinations of spinning basketballs, dribbling, sitting down, getting back up, dribbling with her knees, and balancing two balls on top of each other.

“That’s what I was most comfortable doing,” DeSutter said.

She finished in the top 10 and gained $1,000 in scholarship money for her efforts.

As a student, DeSutter gets straight A’s with multiple college prep classes and is ranked seventh in a class of nearly 160 students.

Her keen knowledge of basketball has been used to help teach younger girls the sport the past two years. DeSutter coached third- and fourth-graders her first year and fifth- and sixth-graders the next. The ultra competitive coach was happy to proclaim her results with her teams at Pittsboro Elementary School.

“My teams made it to the championship game both years but they really grew as people too, so that’s what I liked,” DeSutter said.

As the silent leader who set the example on the court for her high school teammates, DeSutter’s own players were frequent cheerleaders at her games.

“The girls just love her,” Tri-West Athletic Director Don Dorrell said. “You see a little group of girls sitting at home ball games watching her and cheering her on ... I think she’s a great role model for the younger kids.”

And DeSutter understands the importance of setting a good example.

“It’s awesome being able to see youth kids at my games because they’re inspired to want to do that when they’re older because they see me as their coach playing in high school,” she said.

Preparing for next step

As DeSutter prepares to graduate and move on, those close to her are proud of the person she is.

“If I were to have tried to map out what I thought the perfect kid would have been, she’s exceeded those expectations,” Jeanna said.

Hamstra has seen firsthand how the selfless fifth-grader became a senior preparing for adulthood.

“She’s very mature for her age and she’s very responsible and just an all-around good kid,” Hamstra said.

At college, DeSutter will be rooming with one of her AAU teammates — Franklin Central’s Amber May — and the pair look to help the Grizzly Bears. There’s an immediate opportunity for the 5-foot-6 guard to step in next season as Franklin graduated its starting point guard.

“If I can prove myself and get that spot, that would be great,” DeSutter said. “But they’re definitely looking at me to play a role on their team right from the start.”

Acton joked that when he retires she could come back home and take his spot. But before that happens, he has quite a hole to fill with his star guard graduating.

“I don’t like to think about it,” Acton laughed. “You’re not going to replace Lauren with one player. You can’t replace her. The things she’s done, you are not going to replace that.”

When graduation hits in May, it will be the end of an era for DeSutter at TWHS.

“It’s really sad leaving Tri-West, obviously because of how many great memories I’ve had here, but I can take away great things from Tri-West,” DeSutter said. “I’ve accomplished more than I thought I could at this school, especially my senior year. I’m ready to start the new chapter at Franklin so hopefully I can have as successful of a time there as I did here.”