A bit of bad luck caused Lauren Sloan to miss most of her junior season, but the point guard for the Columbus School for Girls basketball team has had better fortunes as a senior.
The Clintonville resident broke three fingers on her right hand during the Unicorns’ third game last season, a 41-19 loss to Whitehall. She missed seven games, but was able to return for a 35-26 win over Delaware Christian in the regular-season finale and the 15th-seeded Unicorns’ postseason opener, a 60-18 loss at top-seeded Granville in the second round of the Division II district tournament.
But then in the final summer-league contest, Sloan broke her little finger on the same hand so badly that she needed surgery.
Sloan has her fingers crossed that she can remain healthy in her final season with the Unicorns.
“I talked to my doctor, and he said that my calcium levels and my bone density were fine,” Sloan said. “He thinks that I just have the worst luck.
“I have been taping my fingers — my pinkie and my ring finger on my right hand — before games and practices. I’ve been healthy so far, knock on wood.”
Through 14 games, Sloan led in steals (3.6 per game) and assists (2.4) for the Unicorns, who were 8-6 overall and 5-5 in the MSL-Ohio Division after defeating Whitehall 47-45 on Jan. 18. She also was second in scoring (7.3 points) and third in rebounding (4.9).
“Lauren is so crucial to our team,” coach Rebecca Bailey said. “I can’t speak enough about her determination, leadership and grit. She’s so inspiring and rallying everyone around a common goal.
“She has such a positivity and a passion for the game. You can see it in her eyes. She leads by example and is so positive in the way she works with teammates. She doesn’t yell in a negative way, but yells in a ‘you-got-this’ kind of way. She’s so good at reading the room and seeing what the team needs. She’s like having another coach on the floor.”
Bailey said Sloan runs the team on both ends of the court.
“Lauren is such a leader of our defense,” Bailey said. “She does a good job of getting pressure and helping with our help-side. She also gets us going offensively, thinking of her teammates before herself.
“When she makes a mistake, she won’t make that mistake again. If she loses the ball, she’s good at learning from mistakes in the moment and making up for them on the other end of the floor.”
Sloan also competes in cross country and track and field for CSG, but said basketball is her passion. She said a lot of that love comes from memories of bonding with her father, Timothy Sloan.
“I’ve been playing basketball forever, since like the third grade,” she said. “In 2016, when the (Cleveland) Cavs won (the NBA title), my dad and I would watch every game. I feel like the sport is something that I’ve grown up with and is part of who I am.”
Sloan, who has been a point guard since her freshman year, said the position involves the added responsibility of being a leader. She added that her role has changed each season.
“Each year, you have different players you’re working with, and this year I try to impart my wisdom on the younger kids,” said Sloan, who averaged 5.8 points and a team-leading 2.8 steals last season. “I see them getting frustrated, and I know exactly how that can be. I feel that the experience I have can help me explain things better to them.
“Sometimes I feel like a fourth coach. I have an understanding of how and what is going on and how players think because I’m one myself. You need to be positive and reinforce what the coach is saying.”
Sloan has a 3.9 GPA and plans to major in business in college. She knows that this will be her last run as part of a basketball program and wants to make the most of her final weeks.
“There are so many rewards (to being a student-athlete), and playing sports is such an amazing outlet for the stress from school,” said Sloan, who was the recipient of the Steve Hall Sportsmanship Award for District 10 last season. “I think (studying and sports) go hand in hand. Playing sports teaches you good time management. You get home, eat dinner and have to get homework done. You have to utilize your time in study hall because you can’t be up late studying since you have a game the next night. You have to prepare for both.”
This article originally appeared on ThisWeek: Girls Basketball: Injury-free Lauren Sloan making CSG Unicorns tick