Lauren Park-Lane was a revelation for the Seton Hall women’s basketball team even in her first year with the Pirates. She was the only player on the team to start all 31 of the team’s games in the 2019-20 season and averaged 4.2 assists per game and was fourth across the Big East in total assists with 129 as a freshman.
There’s no question that Park-Lane has been a tremendous help to the team, and her growth on the court is noticeable in every way. She’s improved from 4.2 assists per game to 5.4 and taken a tremendous leap in scoring as well, averaging 17.5 points per game in year two after scoring just 6.4 points per game last year.
A lot of that growth is attributed to the work she has done in the offseason. Last summer, Park-Lane and her parents moved to Texas. While she was down there, she was able to work out with a few trainers.
“One of my favorite trainers - Coach Zak, really helped me step my offensive game up to the next level,” Park-Lane said. “He had me working on my three-pointers, jump shot and my overall confidence.”
Park-Lane noticed her own improvement during the summer while she played with family friends in the area. Despite her 5-foot-6-inch frame, she held her own playing against grown men in their thirties and forties, and that training has transcended onto the court in the way she maneuvers through taller players to get to the basket.
Besides the offseason, the presence of senior Desiree Elmore and graduate transfer Andra Espinoza-Hunter have helped Park-Lane improve her game.
“Des can score on virtually anybody, and she always tells me to keep shooting no matter what,” she said. “Andra brings a lot of leadership to this team and takes a big weight off my shoulders. She always tells me to know myself and don’t get too frustrated.”
Espinoza-Hunter’s advice paid off well because even coach Anthony Bozzella said he’s noticed Park-Lane’s mentality has improved along with her on-court performances.
“She’s taken a tremendous step mentally this year, but she’s still got room to grow and control her emotions.” Bozzella said. “However, when she makes a mistake, she’s able to take a step back and not let it become two or three mistakes.”
Under the tutelage of two senior figures like Elmore and Espinoza-Hunter, Park-Lane has also developed her presence as a leader – something she holds in high regard in her arsenal of skill sets on and off the court. She has taken the initiative to be a role model for the four-player freshman class that joined the team at the beginning of this season.
One thing she constantly tells the freshmen is to stay confident and not allow anybody to mess up their season. Even Bozzella has noticed that her voice has become more prominent among the leaders of the team and that she has actively taken freshman guard Amari Wright under her wing as she found her feet in the team this season.
“This year really showed me that I came to the right school,” Park-Lane said. “I get to learn from my mistakes on the fly, and the coach has tremendous confidence in me.”
Perhaps the ultimate validation of her improvement from freshman to sophomore year was her honor as the Big East’s Most Improved Player. She became just the third Pirate to win the award after Shadeen Samuels in 2019 and Tabatha Richardson-Smith in 2014. Park-Lane was also named to the All-Big East First Team with Elmore and Espinoza-Hunter.
“I was really excited that she got that award because she’s put a tremendous amount of time and effort into her game,” Bozzella said.
Looking ahead to her junior year, Park-Lane made it clear that she hopes to get another shot at the Big East Tournament and make the NCAA Tournament.
The team will find out on Mar. 15 whether their third place finish in the Big East will be enough to earn their ticket to this year’s NCAA Tournament in San Antonio. Seton Hall’s loss to No. 7 seed Creighton in their first game of the Big East Tournament hurt their chances, but they held their own against the likes of No. 2 University of Connecticut and No. 25 DePaul during the regular season.
“A coach wants to have confidence in his player, but a player has to give their coach a reason, and she gives me many reasons,” Bozzella said. “From her work ethic to her competitiveness, to her passion, to her ability to try to win the game.”
Bozzella’s confidence in Park-Lane extends beyond that of her college basketball career as he sees her ceiling being as high as the WNBA after her time at Seton Hall.
“There’s no doubt in my mind. I think she’s got the potential to do that,” Bozzella said. “She has to continue to work on her game, work on her body, get stronger, and eat healthy.”
For now, however, Park-Lane is committed to achieving her goal of winning the rings and team titles she and her team gave their eyes on.
Ashley Howard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.