California High School was the home of another college signing on Feb. 13 when Lady Pintos basketball senior Lauren Friedrich signed to play college basketball for the Stephens College Stars. A
multiple all-conference, all-district, and all-state player in both volleyball and basketball, Friedrich has cemented her place as one of the greatest athletes in California High School history.
"I started playing REC basketball in kindergarten and I knew from there that basketball was my favorite sport. I was a part of many different teams other than school including: Upwards, California Crusaders (coached by Micky Sommerer and Nick Combs), Missouri Rage (coached by Rodney Edwards), Lady Rage (coached by Nick Totta and Ryan Fick), and Phenom (coached by Dennis Baggett and several other coaches)," Friedrich said. "Middle-school basketball also played a huge part in my confidence of the game and I can thank coaches Whitney Toosley and Bryan Lawson for that. I am so lucky to have been a part of so many teams. All the coaching that I have had has gotten me to where I am now and I couldn't be more grateful."
While a talented basketball player, Friedrich also made an impact on the volleyball court. Friedrich became an all-conference, all-district, and all-state player with the Lady Pintos while helping them win two district titles in four years.
"Although I have said for years that basketball was my favorite sport, volleyball was a close second behind. Volleyball helped me in so many ways to also develop my skills in basketball. The big thing it helped me with was my vertical. Constantly jumping every practice and game helped my leg strength more than ever," Friedrich said. "This carried over to basketball, allowing me to score over people anywhere on the court. I am thankful for my coaches Julie Bailey, Erika DeMoss, Maggie Luebbert, Jennifer Porter and Rebecca Eichelburger for keeping me in this sport and pushing me in practice each day."
Friedrich played another key role in Lady Pintos basketball throughout her first three season with the help of her teammates and coaches, including her head coach Bobby Sangster. Friedrich said she got a wake up call while playing for Sangster. Although she made the varsity team as a freshman, Friedrich felt like she was behind in her skill compared to the other players, but Sangster told her that he saw something in her that Friedrich didn't see herself.
That hidden potential came out in last season's Class 4 District 10 championship against Fair Grove. Friedrich exploded for a career-high 35 points in California's 70-66 overtime win over Fair Grove to win the district championship.
"I never expected to have a standout game like that as a junior. In that moment I knew I had to keep the momentum going, and get that District Championship. This game also boosted my confidence for the next year knowing we were losing six seniors," Friedrich said.
That game was the coming out party for Friedrich's basketball career and since then, Friedrich has become one of the best girls basketball players in Missouri this season. Joining California's 1,000-point club along the way. Friedrich soon began looking for colleges to go to and it didn't take her long to find her future home at Stephens College in Columbia. Friedrich will be attending Stephens next fall along with best friends Emma Whitson and KaLynn Irey.
"When visiting the Stephens campus, it immediately felt like home. The campus was easy to get around, the food was good, and everyone was so nice and welcoming. The big reason I committed to Stephens was coach Andre Bell. I remember playing in a Lincoln Tournament one year and he came up to me after one of my games and said "I'm going to keep up with you kid," and he did exactly that," Friedrich said. "I love the way he is rebuilding the Stephens Basketball program, and I knew I wanted to be a part of that. I'm excited to see what the next four years hold being a Stephens Star."
Friedrich signed with the Stars on Feb. 13 in front of family, friends, teammates, and coaches. Later that night, when the Lady Pintos host the Osage Indians, Friedrich special day became even more special when she broke a school record. Friedrich exploded for 11 three-pointers in the final three quarters as the Lady Pintos beat the Lady Indians 66-46. Friedrich said that breaking the school three-point record was her favorite memory with the Lady Pintos and she had her teammates and coaches to thank for helping her reach such a lofty height.
"This record has always been something I knew was there but I didn't want to make it my only focus for the season. Anyone watching my first quarter of that game definitely didn't think I was going to break any record. I think I might have had two points ending that quarter, but as Steph Curry once said "Keep shooting." That's exactly what I did the last half of that game," Friedrich said. "My last shot that game, when everyone started cheering, I thought I had just tied the record. I didn't find out until my teammates came up to me after the game and said "you broke it!" I couldn't have done that without my teammates and all of their support. Previous record holders Elizabeth Lutz and Elle Miller texted me that night congratulating me on breaking the record. It meant the word to me being that these were the players I've looked up to my entire career."
Before Friedrich graduates in May, she and the Lady Pintos hope to bring home the Class 4 District 9 championship to California begining Thursday night against either Knob Noster or Boonville. Friedrich said she hopes California fans will be as loud as they have been throughout her entire career. Friedrich is thankful to California for begin a great community to grow up in and hopes to show her thanks by winning another district title for the fans.
"No matter what team we are playing I always know the city of California is going to bring a crowd. Games are always more fun to play when you have a cheering section backing you up. Our student section this year has also stepped up by being at almost every home game," Friedrich said. "I cannot express how thankful I am to have a community as supportive as this one. I only hope we can repay this community this upcoming week by bringing home that district championship."