For The Tribune

In middle school, Lauren James started seriously thinking about playing college basketball.

On Monday, that dream became a reality when the Seymour High School senior signed a letter of intent to play basketball at Taylor University.

James said she liked the way she was welcomed when she visited the college in Upland.

“The girls on the (Taylor) basketball team are amazing,” James said. “In college you have to look at other things. They have classes that fit what I want to study. They have nice dorms. The overall experience, I think, is going to be awesome. I’ll do whatever they want me to do.”

Thus far this season, James leads the Owls in scoring at 17 points per game.

Owls coach Jason Longmeier said he thinks James can definitely get some time on the court at Taylor.

“I think Taylor is really going to be excited with the product they’re getting,” Longmeier said. “Obviously, she’s a product of hard work. In my nine years of being a head coach, I’m not really sure I’ve had one individual that has spent as much time in the gym as what she has spent in the gym: really working on fine-tuning her craft.”

Longmeier said that her handwork isn’t just on the hardwood, and the program has produced some quality players in recent years.

“She’s a great student as well,” he said. “From our program, it’s exciting for us to have another player go onto the next level. I think that just talks a lot about the strength our program is in right now. In the last two years along, we’ve sent four kids on to play at the next level, and we still have a shot with this group to send a few more.

“It’s exciting for us to have those type players that can represent Seymour High School and the Hoosier Hills Conference.”

James said she tries to work just as hard in practice as she does in games.

“I love playing at Seymour,” she said. ‘I try to push myself every game, and in practices my teammates have pushed me, so I’ve worked on things I needed to work on.”

The senior knows that there will be some adjustments to the college game down the road.

“The biggest difference between high school and college, obviously, is the speed and the strength of the game so I need to get stronger,” James said. “That is going to be one of my top goals.”

Taylor University is a member of the Crossroads League, made up of schools from Indiana, Michigan and Ohio.

Other Indiana colleges in the conference are Bethel, Grace, Goshen, Huntington, Indiana Wesleyan, Marian and St. Francis (Fort Wayne).

James said the other thing she is going to work on a quicker release on her shots because she knows she will face taller guards in the future.

She prides herself in lock-down defense and hopes to use her quickness at that end of the floor.

“If you don’t play defense, you’re not going to play,” James said. “I like to go into games with a defensive mindset.”

Becca Bornhorst, as assistant women’s basketball coach at Taylor who attended the signing Monday, said she is pleased that James chose to become a Trojan.

“Lauren is just such a hard worker, and watching her in multiple games I can tell basketball is just such a love for her,” Bornhorst said. “I’m just excited to see how she’s going to improve. This summer she came tour camp, and I can tell she’s a natural leader on and off the floor, so I’m excited to see when you combine passion and natural talent those things can contribute a lot to a team.

“I could go on about her specific skill sets: she can handle the ball, she’s a great passer, she sees the floor well, she can shoot. She definitely has the whole package. We’re blessed and excited for her to be a Trojan.”

Longmeier said not only has her outside shooting improved but also her ball-handling and her knowledge of the game.

“Not only does she spend a lot of time playing it, but you can tell by watching her she’s got a lot of skills that she sees being used at the next level, watching some college and NBA games,” he said.

“She’s got a really good skill set that will transfer over there, and I think once they get her in there and she starts to become even stronger that’s going to be a big part of her game that catapults her to the next level.”

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Arv Koontz is a sports correspondent for The (Seymour) Tribune.