Lueders chooses Vanderbilt

Thursday, June 30, 2005

The most highly recruited member of a boys basketball team in Southeast Missourian coverage area this winter has made her decision.

Saxony Lutheran senior-to-be Lauren Lueders announced on Wednesday she will attend Vanderbilt University, a perennial Southeastern Conference power which has been in the NCAA tournament field the last six years and 16 out of the past 17 years. The Commodores have made two straight appearances in the NCAA's Sweet 16.

Lueders, a 5-foot-8 guard, will not be able to make her commitment to Vanderbilt official until November, when the NCAA's early signing period begins. But she doesn't plan on changing her mind.

"Absolutely not," she said. "To be able to go to a top-20 academic school and to play on a top-20 basketball team, it's something you can't pass up.

"When I visited the campus, I just fell in love with it, and I really felt at home with the players and coaches. I am going there to earn a degree from one of the best universities and to compete for a national championship. It is a dream come true."

Lueders, who also accepted invitations to visit Missouri, Colorado, Illinois and Iowa State, has been a three-year starter for the Saxony Lutheran boys basketball team, averaging nearly 10 points and about six assists per game during her career for teams that have gone 54-18. The last two seasons have been at the varsity level following one year when the program was junior varsity.

The school, which opened in 2000 and will be playing its fourth season of basketball this winter -- its third at the varsity level -- does not yet have a girls basketball program.

Saxony coach John Daniel said Lueders, who lives in Frohna, "took a lot of heat" for deciding to attend the small, private school.

"When Lauren came to Saxony, we had 19 students and no athletic program to speak of, and a lot of people thought it was a big mistake," Daniel said. "It has turned out well for Saxony and Lauren.

"No question, all the college coaches who saw her say the best thing she could have done to prepare for big-time college basketball was to play with the boys like she did," Daniel added.

Lueders agreed with Daniel that playing with and against boys has helped her development.

"Very much," she said. "The toughness, the speed of the game, it's helped me with a lot of things."

Vanderbilt had been recruiting Lueders since the end of her freshman season, when Daniel contacted the Commodores' coaching staff.

"Coach Daniel has helped me so much, talking to me about Vandy's academic reputation and the success of the women's basketball program," Lueders said. "After he put together a tape and sent it to Vandy, they invited me to visit. Since then, they've always been at the top of my list."

Lueders, who was recruited by more than 40 universities, was selected last fall by Street & Smith's as a preseason honorable mention All-American. Recently, the Michael White All Star Girls Report, the nation's top scouting service, ranked her the top prospect in Missouri.

Now that her college decision is out of the way, Lueders -- who played with an AAU team from St. Louis last summer that finished fifth in the country -- said she can focus on helping Saxony Lutheran post another successful season.

"It's a lot of weight off my shoulders," Lueders said. "I'm happy about my decision, and now I don't have to worry about it any more."

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