Lauren Burford missed those small, often-taken-for-granted things that go along with playing high school basketball. The team sleepovers, the “spirit boxes” and the ability to socialize with those she shared a layup line with were all factors that went into her decision.
After spending her freshman and sophomore seasons on the court for St. John’s College High School in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference, Burford, now a junior, transferred to Fairfax High School, which totaled all of one win in 2007-08.
It wasn’t an easy decision and it surely didn’t come without its difficulties. One difficulty was the grading scale, as Burford learned quick that her 93-percent score on last week’s history test was a ‘B’ plus, not an ‘A.’
“Those three percentage points make a big difference,” Burford said of Fairfax County’s grading scale, which will be changed to a 10-point system starting next fall. “It’s kind of nice not having to wear a uniform, too,”
Her coach at Fairfax, second-year man Marcus Konde, remembers how tough that adjustment process was on Burford.
“It was sort of like a brand-new, exciting thing for her as far as the transition, and she struggled a little bit with the grading system,” Konde said. “When you go from having 90 to 100 [percent] as an ‘A’ to 94 to 100, all of a sudden she was a little upset with those ‘B’ plusses.”
<b>BURFORD’S LIFE</b> on the court has undergone the most drastic makeover, though. At St. John’s, like many private schools, basketball can often run a close second in importance to breathing. While at Fairfax, the basketball has still been competitive but it now includes a team aspect that Burford loved.
“You can’t be completely consumed by basketball all day long,” Konde said. “Sometimes kids have to be kids.”
Despite starting at the No. 2 guard spot last year for St. John’s, the 6-foot-1 Burford started her career at Fairfax playing point guard, a new experience that helped her become an even more versatile player.
“When I played point guard, it made me see the floor in a different way because you see everything that’s going on,” said Burford, who has garnered significant collegiate interest, but declined to name any favorites at this point. “You have to take care of the ball, and try to get the ball to the open player.”
Her ability would’ve been on constant display at St. John’s, where a game is rarely played without a college scout in the crowd. But her commute from Fairfax County to Washington, D.C. often took three or four hours out of an already-packed day.
“It was taking a lot out of me,” Burford said, “and having a lot of friends that live close to me on weekends, I didn’t really do much with any friends.”
Now Burford can leave school at 2:15 p.m. and be evaluating her couch’s comfortability by 2:30 p.m. Or, as Konde likely prefers, she can be working on homework or getting ready for practice.
<b>THE MOVE,</b> coupled with her maturity as a player, has led to Burford’s emergence as one of the Northern Region’s top talents. This past winter, she averaged 19.7 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists and two steals per game, leading the Rebels in every statistical category.
In addition to earning second team All-Connection honors, Burford was also recognized as a first team All-Concorde District and All-Northern Region pick. In what was perhaps the least-warranted voting processes in history, she was elected the team’s Most Valuable Player.
“Before she got here, she was a shooter,” Konde said. “But I’ve forced her to expand in all other areas of her game because basically we need her at almost every position, and defensively she’s one of the best off-the-ball defenders that you’ll ever see.”
A year after finishing 1-22, Fairfax was 6-17 this winter, with only four losses -- to region semifinal Westfield and region champion Oakton -- that Konde felt were true blowouts and five of those 16 losses were by three points or less.
Fairfax will move into the Liberty District next season and, without the rigors or competing in the difficult Concorde, Burford and Co. hopes to make a bit more noise next season.
“Next year, we’re switching districts and going to the Liberty District,” said Burford, sounding very much like a typical high school kid. “I definitely want to get a few districts wins there and hopefully go on to the regional tournament.”