From her early days playing for her second grade intramural team, Lauren Reinshuttle had a deep love for basketball. That love, which has led her to state championships, will take her to Duquesne University next fall. It's also helping her make history at South County Secondary School.
Lauren, a senior, is the first student from the year-old school to be selected by a Division I school on an athletic scholarship.
"There was a lot of pressure to play well when the coaches started coming to games this summer," said Lauren, who has been contacted by college coaches for nearly a year. "As the calls became more frequent, you started to understand where you were on their priority list."
PRESSURE IS nothing new to Lauren, who started playing in the Amateur Athletic Union at age 10, first on the Fairfax Stars and later for the Virginia Cardinals. A natural athlete with a passion and love of playing, Lauren has also tried her hand at soccer for a year and softball,
"The summer I was playing soccer, it got really crazy," Lauren said. "It got to be that I was going from practice to practice, eating dinner and doing homework in the car. I had to choose eventually and I picked basketball because it's an indoor sport so I don't have to deal with hot days," she laughed.
Her father, Ken Reinshuttle, said his daughter has been selected captain of her varsity basketball team since she started as a freshman at Hayfield Secondary School.
"It's almost unheard of for a freshman to be chosen captain, the decision is made by the girls on the team," he said.
Lauren dreamed of playing college ball since she was young.
"Everyone wants to be in the NBA when they're a kid, but we didn't have that for girls," she said. "College was the only way to go. My goal freshman year was to play for the varsity team and then go on to play in college."
IN THE PAST YEAR, Lauren has been contacted by some big names in college ball — Temple University, George Washington and Villanova to name a few. Eventually, she narrowed it down to Duquesne, near Pittsburgh, and The College of William and Mary.
"Duquesne has my major as an actual program," said Lauren, who plans to study media management and production. "It's a better conference and they were really persistent with recruiting me, they really made me feel like they wanted me there."
South County Principal Dale Rumberger said the process of picking a college was "a whole different kind of chess game" for the Reinshuttles, who tried to arrange Lauren's visits with schools between practices and helping their exchange student from Kazakhstan, Natalya Chuikova, feel at home in a strange place.
"She has to be specific with all the classes she's taking, they tell you what you can and cannot do outside of basketball," Rumberger said. "I've talked with students who've been at this level before and you realize it's a whole different world."
Because of the intense scrutiny under which student athletes live, Rumberger said, the students have begun to look at the programs and educational opportunities a school provides, not just the athletic offerings.
"I feel really lucky about Duquesne," Lauren said. "Even if I choose to quit basketball, I can still get into the college because of my grades. I'm also lucky that if I didn't get this scholarship, my parents could still afford it. Some kids aren't that lucky."
Ken Reinshuttle said he made sure the educational program at Duquesne was solid.
"They take really good care of their athletes. They have free medical care. If Lauren were to get injured today, they'd still honor her scholarship," he said. "Plus, she gets first dibs on all the classes she wants to take."
Although Lauren's strongest position is as a shooting guard, she's been able to try playing several positions while at South County.
"She's a stat leader in just about everything," said coach Jason Grubb. With only a handful of junior players last year on his varsity team, Grubb said the girls would rotate and try out all positions in order to make the team more solid.
"Once she had a triple-double, something I've never seen," he said. "It just goes to show she's more than just a shooter. She's our leading rebounder, she blocks and steals. She does a lot for us."
Ken Reinshuttle said the switch to South County and Grubb was helpful to Lauren, to help her win the attention of college coaches.
"He came in with two girls and built a team around them," Ken Reinshuttle said of Grubb. "He gave the girls a chance to shine, he helped them become more well-rounded players."
Lauren said she feels she's grown as a player since coming to South County; at Hayfield she only had the chance to be a shooting guard.
"One of the strengths of playing for South County is that we expect her to be a leader," Grubb said. "The girls look up to her."
WITH THE REST of her senior year stretching in front of her, Lauren doesn't have the stress of wondering where she'll go to college looming over her head. Instead, she has to maintain her grades, keep herself healthy and keep playing.
Lauren said she's proud to be South County's first signed athlete, although it won't be official until November.
"I think it's great that the first one out isn't a male football player, it's a girl basketball player," Lauren said. "The guys are happy for me, but I have been challenged to a lot of games of one-on-one basketball."
Rumberger said he's not surprised that Lauren has drawn this kind of attention, but he's glad she's had the support from her parents to make the decision based on what was best for her.
"I think it goes to show the efforts that have been made to level the field" between male and female athletes, Rumberger said. "I'm really happy for Lauren. She's so eclectic. If there's such a thing as a renaissance woman, it's Ms. Reinshuttle."
Lauren is one of between 800 and 900 students that will be offered athletic scholarships this year, Grubb said.
"The pool of kids that are watched gets smaller and smaller all the time," he said. "It's tough because there's a lot of things in play, you don't know what's going on or who to trust. It's a learning process for everyone."
Lauren compares it to a blind date: "You don't know if the coach was going to show up or what they'll think. Maybe the coach is there seeing someone else, maybe not. You don't know anything until you're there talking with them."