Lauren Battista’s official bio on the Bentley Falcons website runs nearly 1,200 words — a rather impressive list of statistics, awards, and academic achievements.
The 20-year-old Battista, an All-American on the basketball court and in the classroom, though, would prefer to take a broader view.
“Above all, the greatest things that have happened since I’ve been [at Bentley University] have been our trips to the [Division 2] Elite Eight and Final Four,” said the junior captain, reviewing her first two seasons, in which the Falcons were 50 games over .500.
“I would trade all the awards for a national championship any day.”
Battista, the state’s Player of the Year after leading Oliver Ames High School to the Division 2 title as a senior, has plenty of bargaining power. A week ago, she was the only junior named to the Capital One NCAA Division 2 Academic All-American first team. Carrying a 3.94 grade point average while working on a double major, marketing and liberal studies, as well as a finance minor, she is the Falcons’ first first-team selection since Kim Penwell in 1991.
On Saturday, in a showdown against archrival Stonehill, in her hometown of North Easton, she became the highest-scoring junior in program history (1,378 points) with her 16-point effort. The only number that mattered, however, was the final score, as the Chieftains handed top-ranked Bentley its first loss of the season, 73-66, after a 24-0 start.
“A No. 1 ranking right now means nothing,” said Battista. “A No. 1 ranking at the end of March is what’s most important. We want to take this game and make the changes that we need to to be able to make that run to the end of March.”
Listed as forward, the 6-foot Battista has the ball-handling, shooting, rebounding skills to play any position on the floor. The reigning Northeast-10 Player of the Year, as well as the Daktronics Division 2 East Region Player of the Year, she is averaging 14 points and 6.7 rebounds in 29.9 minutes per game.
“I think the best thing about Lauren is that she may not be our leading scorer every day, but she has made an impact on the game one way or another,” said coach Barbara Stevens, in her 26th season on the bench at Bentley.
“We’ve had great centers, forwards, and guards, but Lauren has had the ability to do a lot more than just be a forward who scores at the rim. She’s very involved in running our offense and I think that sets her apart a little bit from the rest.”
Elaine Clement-Holbrook, who coached Battista at Oliver Ames — and was a college roomate and teammate of Stevens at Bridgewater State — always believed that Battista “was a special player.”
“Knowing Lauren’s passion for winning and her expectations for herself, I told her, ‘You want to go someplace where you’ll have a chance to play for a national championship.’ ”
Battista netted just 2 points in the first half Saturday at Stonehill, but she made her presence felt from the opening tip – which she took.
She had a hand in 6 of the Falcons’ first 7 points and scored 14 points in the second half, but Stonehill (22-3, 18-3) rode its 39-point first-half performance to the win.
Stevens was disappointed in the loss, but was not worried how Battista would respond.
“I think she [understands] the game well,” said Stevens. “She’s very cerebral. She understands that it was not a good game and she knows there were too many mistakes made. She’ll process it.” And she fully expected Battista to come back with a vengeance when Bentley closed out the regular season Tuesday night against University of Massachusetts Lowell.
“I think this whole season’s just a huge learning experience,” said Battista after the loss. “That’s what the regular season is all about. It’s playing a lot of games, playing a lot of teams, and learning from it.”
Away from the court, and away from the classroom, she has become a campus ambassador for Team Impact, a charity that pairs children with cancer or other life-threatening illnesses with college teams.
“Its purpose is to give [the children] another source of motivation and support,” said Battista. “It’s just like a big group to be their older sisters or brothers, to get them through this tough time.”
This past fall, the Falcons were matched up with a 7-year-old from the Boston area who has leukemia.
[She] is the cutest thing,” said Battista. “She’s just a ball of energy. She’s so happy, upbeat, and mature. I think she’s been great and another source of inspiration for our team when she can be around.”
Battista has consistently shown a willingness to give back.
During Christmas break, Battista, along with former high school teammate Brittany Engle, helped Clement-Holbrook and OA prepare for a matchup against Lake Region, Maine.
“They played the role of the school’s guard and post players for us at practice,” said Clement-Holbrook, whose Tigers entered the Division 2 South tourney with a 19-1 record.
“We were so prepared by the time the game came that we were able to win [43-38 on Dec. 27] and that was a huge step for us and we couldn’t have done it if it hadn’t been for LB being willing to come to practice and help us out.”
As a sophomore, Battista was elected to the Falcon Society at Bentley, a rare honor for an underclassman. The society honors those who have achieved excellence in the classroom, as well as making a true impact on campus.
Although she’s too humble to admit it, Battista has been a perfect fit. But she is not finished yet.
“The number one goal for the season is to win that national championship,” said Battista. “No Bentley team has ever done it. We’ve come close [Elite Eight her freshman season, national semifinals last season], but that’s the goal. I know that if I work my hardest to try to achieve that, individual [records] will come into place if they’re meant to be.”Seth Lakso can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.