Audino commits to Western Michigan
Lauren Audino’s next step in her basketball journey will take her to Western Michigan.
On Monday, the 16-year-old Welland native announced on Twitter that she had verbally committed to attend the NCAA Division 1 school starting in the 2021-22 season.
“It’s not just a sigh of relief knowing that I have it but it’s moving forward knowing I had that goal and I achieved it,” said the former travel player with the Welland Warriors and Pelham Panthers. “Knowing that I have that in my back pocket, I am excited to go out and just play basketball.”
The sigh of relief comes from realizing that all her hard work has paid off.
“I have only been playing for five years and I never thought anything would come from playing when I first started playing in Pelham,” she said. “I was just playing for fun and now I have achieved a Division 1 scholarship.”
The 6-foot-2 post player began playing basketball in Grade 7 and by the summer of Grade 9, she was a member of Team Ontario. Last summer, she represented Canada at the FIBA U16 Women’s Americas Championship in Aysen, Chile, and helped Canada win a silver medal by averaging 6.3 points and 5.8 rebounds a game
Audino made unofficial lists to Harvard and Robert Morris before becoming convinced Western Michigan was her preferred hardwood destination.
“The school itself had an amazing medical program and I want to go into pre-med. The educational side of things is the first factor that I always look at,” she said. “But what really grabbed me was all four of the coaches that I talked to.”
She chatted with Western Michigan associate head coach Russ Rose for more than an hour. The deal was sealed following a Zoom meeting between Western Michigan’s entire coaching staff and Audino and her parents.
“Their style of play really matches up with my playing style and I know that I will be able to develop really well there,” she said. “They are ranked 150th and I feel that I can actually get some playing time.”
Audino was looking forward earning some playing time for Canada at the FIBA U17 Women’s Basketball World Cup and had earned an invite to a March training camp before it was cancelled. The World Cup in Romania has also been cancelled but Canada Basketball has kept the lines of communication open with weekly calls to discuss nutrition and training.
“It’s good to stay together as a group and a Canada Basketball family,” Audino said.
She will participate in an online Canadian training camp running Aug. 11 to Aug. 14.
“I am pretty sure it doesn’t involved any physical basketball but each day we are going to talk about plays, maybe go over some film and all that kind of stuff,” she said. “I am looking forward to that because they are trying to simulate what we would do.”
To keep her basketball skills sharp, Audino has been shooting hoops and training at home, training once a week with Mihai Raducanu of No Limit Performance and attending Saturday two-hour workout sessions in Burlington with Kia Nurse’s Nike Elite Youth Basketball League program.
This past season, Audino averaged 7.8 points and 7.1 rebounds in 19 Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association games with Lincoln Prep and she will back with the team whenever plays resumes.
The OSBA announced Monday that it has postponed its season until January but Lincoln Prep is hoping to stage a training camp in Timmins at the end of August.
“It is all up in the air because we don’t know if the season is going to be totally cancelled. We are hoping to go back to school and resume training.”
It’s hard for Audino not to leap ahead and think about her impending career at Western Michigan.
“I am very, very excited to play at the next level because it will allow me to push myself,” she said. “I know it is going to take a lot of work but I still have the goal of playing in the Olympics for the senior national women’s team.
“I know this school can get that for me if I put in the work.”
This past season, Western Michigan had an 18-13 overall record, including a 10-9 mark in Mid-American Conference play.