Don't Label Her
Valencia's Breakout Basketball Star Excels in All Positions
March, 2011 - Issue #77
Know anyone with an addiction? Someone who gets restless if they have to go 15 minutes without checking Facebook? Someone who isn't employed at a Starbucks but could tell you the full names and weekly schedules of everyone who works there?
Then you'll understand what Valencia High senior Lauren Spargo is going through.

She has her own obsession.

"It's weird," Spargo says, "but I feel this strong need. I feel compelled. If I'm not touching a basketball, if I'm not shooting, I don't feel right. It's like a release for me. I need to be in the gym. If I go a day without shooting, it just feels really wrong."

Her solution? She shoots. A lot.

Already an All-League player heading into her senior year, already perhaps the Santa Clarita Valley's most talented all-around player, already one of the best to ever play for Valencia, Spargo came into the year far from satisfied. She's continued pushing herself.

She's continued, despite leading the Vikings in scoring for the second straight year, despite earning the respect of her opponents (who double team her), her teammates (who could go on and on about her) and even referees (who constantly ask her where she'll be playing in college), to shoot after practice, on days the team doesn't practice, whenever.

"I have extremely high expectations for myself," Spargo says. "After games, sometimes people will tell me I did a great job and I'll just be like, 'Thanks, but really? I don't think I did that well.' I'm still not where I want to be. I just expect myself to be a lot better."

So like most perfectionists, she continues striving for perfection.

"There's been Sundays," says Valencia High Head Coach Jerry Mike, "where she's shooting all day. One Sunday, she had a lesson with [former Los Angeles Laker] Mike Penberthy, and then with [former Hart High guard and current WNBA player] Taylor Lilley and then when she got done training with them, she headed over to our gym to work out with [private shooting coach] Lance Jackson. That's four hours of shooting."

It's more than just her shooting ability, though, that makes Spargo impressive.
A starting center for the varsity team when she first came to Valencia High as a freshman, the 5-foot-10 senior has played - and excelled at - all five positions.

She can play with her back to the basket as a post player, she can run the offense as a point guard, and is a standout on the wing, where she gets the majority of her time for the Vikings, excelling as a spot-up shooter as well as a threat to drive and get to the basket.

"College coaches have called saying they need a shooter and heard Spargo's a shooter so they're interested," Mike says. "She's much more than a shooter. I think she's the total package. She can play every position. Anything you want her to do, she does it well."

Spargo credits Jackson, whose son Lonnie is the Boston College-bound star of the Valencia boys basketball team, with a lot of her overall offensive development.

They've trained together since Spargo's junior year.

"I've always had a pretty good shot. He's made me a better shooter but he's also helped me be more than a shooter," she says. "I don't want to be labeled. I've trained with him on ball handling, driving to the basket, shooting off the dribble, getting fouled, everything."

Her teammates are aware of the time she puts in.

Fellow senior team captain Carly Chun-Hoon, who has been on the varsity team with Spargo since the two were freshmen, says Spargo has earned the right to speak up when the team isn't playing to the best of their ability or isn't working as hard as they should.

"She's reliable," Chun-Hoon says. "We know we can count on her. And we know how hard she works. I've never seen somebody who works as hard as she does on her shot."

Spargo also has the respect of Mike, who has coached her for four years.

He says he remembers one instance of her taking a shot that he didn't approve of. If it were any other player, they would have heard about it. He held his tongue for Spargo.

She's earned it.

"I stopped myself and thought, 'You know what? I don't want to stop her. She deserves the right to make her own decisions,'" Mike says. "I have complete trust in her. Probably as much trust as any player that I've coached. She has a total green light. All of the work she's put in over the past four years, what she's done, the training she puts in on her own, she deserves for me to stay out of her way and trust that she knows what she's doing."
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