By Matt Gustus
When the final buzzer sounded in Erie, Pennsylvania, senior forward, Lauren Battista, launched the ball in the air and threw her fists up in triumph as her and her 14 teammates had reached the pinnacle of the basketball world. She met her team and the several hundred students in attendance at midcourt in celebration of their national championship.
Moments later, after the nets had been cut down, Battista made her way back up the ladder and sat perched on the rim, soaking in the moment that she described as the best of her life.
“The best basketball moment of my life was without a doubt winning the national championship,” Battista explained. “I have been fortunate to have played for many successful teams in my life that competed for championships, but no feeling comes close to the feeling of ending your collegiate career with a national championship to cap off an undefeated season.”
Over the last four years, Battista and the rest of the Falcons have brought memorable moments to the Falcon faithful. Over her four years, Battista led the Falcons to a record of 123-11 while compiling the most points (2,112), field goals (821), games played (135) and games started (133) in program history. In addition, she was named the Northeast-10 tournament MVP each of her four years.
However, as sad as it is, her time as a Falcon athlete has come to an end.
As she moves on from her collegiate basketball career, there are many options facing the WBCA Division II Player of the Year.
“I am still undecided as to what I am doing after I graduate, but one option I am pursuing is playing basketball professionally overseas,” said Battista. “There is a lot that goes into that such as hiring an agent, getting dual citizenship if possible and trying to market myself to teams in foreign countries. I would love to stay in the world of basketball if the right opportunity presents itself.”
While playing professionally may seem like a difficult task for a Division II athlete, there have been Falcons in the past who have found success overseas.
Most recently, two members of the men’s basketball program left Bentley and found themselves playing professionally in Europe. 2010 graduate Jason Westrol and 2011 graduate Brian Tracey, the leaders of the men’s basketball team that went to the Final Four in 2010, are currently starters on teams in Belgium and the Czech Republic, respectively.
Westrol, who scored a team-high 21.1 points per game his senior year as a Falcon, first started his career playing in Romania before spending some time in the NBA’s Developmental league. When he was cut from the Iowa Energy, he returned to Europe in hopes of continuing his basketball career and is currently the starting point guard for the Leuven Bears in Belgium.
Tracey, who led the Falcons back to the Sweet 16 in his senior year, while averaging 17.4 points and 8.0 rebounds, is matching his college stats by scoring 17.5 points and grabbing 8.1 rebounds per game this season while playing for the BK Lions J. Hradec basketball team in the Czech Republic.
Battista is hoping to follow a similar path and continue playing the game she loves.
Before coming to Bentley, Battista’s success on the high school court opened the door for basketball opportunities at some of the top schools in the area. In high school, Battista led her Oliver Ames High basketball team to a State Championship in her senior season. She was selected as the Massachusetts Gatorade Player of the Year in that season, which is one of the top accolades awarded to high school basketball players in Massachusetts.
However, with some high level Division I teams recruiting her, a unique connection played a part in her selection of Bentley as the place she would spend her next four years.
Other than Coach Barbara Stevens, “the other coach that has had the greatest impact on my basketball career was my high school coach Laney Holbrook. Ironically, Laney and Coach Stevens were college roommates and still are very close friends so I have been very lucky to have two very extraordinary people in my life throughout high school and college. Laney taught me the importance of being humble and a good leader and helped me improve my game before joining Coach Stevens’ team. I am so glad that I could win a State Championship while playing for Coach Holbrook and then a National Championship while playing for Coach Stevens since they are both remarkable people that deserve so much for the amount that they do for their teams.”
As she prepares to move forward, Battista noted that the one thing she will miss the most will be the bond she shared with her teammates.
“I think what I will miss the most about being a part of the Bentley basketball team is the large family-like bond I have been able to form with the players, coaches, their families and fans,” reflected Battista. “It is the time we all spend together off the court that is special to me and where so many of our memories are made. I loved being able to come out of the locker room after a great team win and see our families waiting to congratulate all of us. Being able to share these past four years with them has made all of our accomplishments even more special because they are such an important part of our success.”
With Battista and six other players from the National Championship squad graduating this spring, the future is uncertain for the Falcons. However, one thing will be certain come next November: the women who have taken us fans on this outstanding ride will be sorely missed.