Basketball, volleyball and a bucket full of ice for two-sport recruit Lauren Ware

Courtesy Lilly Keplin

Lauren Ware has dominated courts in North Dakota -- both basketball and volleyball -- at Bismarck's Century High School.

There's a large bucket full of ice in Lauren Ware's freezer. Three blue ice packs are always at the ready, too. If the frozen water in this Bismarck, North Dakota, home could talk, it would surely be steaming over never getting a day off.

That's because Ware, a junior at Century High School, keeps growing and going. The two-sport star was 6 feet tall by the time she reached eighth grade. Now she stands 6-foot-5.

"I think I've adjusted pretty well into my body, but I had growing pains a lot in middle school," said Ware, a junior at Century (Bismarck, North Dakota). "It's gotten better in high school. Still, there's rarely a day that I don't ice my knees and ankles."

There's also rarely a day when Ware isn't working on one of her two sports. She already has won three North Dakota Gatorade Player of the Year awards -- two in basketball and one in volleyball. She also has won five state titles, including three in volleyball.

She is the No. 38 prospect in the espnW HoopGurlz Super 60 for the 2020 class. Last month, she announced her 10 college finalists: Arizona, Arizona State, Florida, Iowa, LSU, Minnesota, Nebraska, NC State, Oregon and Texas.

"We've had a lot of different colors in our gym," Century basketball coach Ron Metz said in reference to all the coaches who have made the trek to Bismarck to recruit Ware. "I've been coaching for 12 years, and I haven't seen anyone who can impact the game on both sides like she can."

Ware said she wants to play basketball and volleyball in college, and coaches at the schools recruiting her say they're on board. Two weeks ago, she took her first official visit, to Nebraska, and she had breakfast with the Nebraska basketball and volleyball coaches.

After breakfast, she toured the volleyball facilities with coach John Cook, who has led Nebraska to four volleyball national titles. Then she visited the basketball facilities with South Dakota native and Cornhuskers basketball coach Amy Williams.

Ware, who has yet to decide on the other colleges that will get her four remaining official visits, said she's grateful for the opportunity to play both sports.

"Colleges are giving me the option," said Ware, who is interested in majoring in business, management or communications. "At first I thought I would've decided by now which sport I wanted to play in college. But I can't decide.

"On my visit [to Nebraska], they mapped it out, and [playing both] seems doable. It's kind of rare to play both. I like that -- it makes it special."

Jamie Zastoupil, Century's volleyball coach the past the eight years, believes Ware's potential is immense. Ware started playing basketball at age 4 but didn't pick up volleyball until fifth grade.

"She came to us as a freshman with very basic skills," Zastoupil said. "But she's such an unbelievable athlete and a natural leader -- she has grown in the game.

"When Lauren is playing volleyball, she loves volleyball. When she plays basketball, she loves basketball. Playing both in college will be challenging, especially at the level where she can play. She would need two [college] coaches who can help her physically and mentally."

Ware, 16, comes from an athletic family. Her mother, Kristi, who is 5-11, and her father, Joe, who is 6-4, both played NCAA Division II basketball at University of Mary in Bismarck.

In addition, Ware, the middle of three children, has a brother Alex, 18, who plays golf, and William, 14, who plays basketball. Lauren is the tallest person in her family, but William might yet overtake her.

Ware, who made second-team all-state in basketball as a freshman, averaged 17.1 points, 11.4 rebounds, 3.9 blocks and 2.1 assists as a sophomore, winning her first Gatorade award and leading Century to a 26-1 record and the Class A state title.

As a junior, she averaged 17.3 points, 11.1 rebounds, 4.6 blocks and 2.1 assists, leading Century to a 27-0 record and another basketball state championship.

Ware's Patriots will enter her senior season on a 33-game win streak.

"I'm glad I don't have to play against her -- that's for damn sure," said Lilly Keplin, Ware's former basketball teammate who will play for the University of North Dakota next season. "Lauren has killer moves. She's a beast."

Jason Harris, who was Ware's AAU coach with the Dakota Drillers, said she has come a long way since they first met in the summer before her freshman year.

I'm glad I don't have to play against her -- that's for damn sure.
Lilly Keplin

Ware's first trip with the Drillers was to a tournament in Ames, Iowa.

"It was at least a 10-hour drive from Bismarck," Harris said. "Lauren may have said seven words in those 10 hours."

Ware has become much more outgoing since then, and her game has grown, too.

She's extremely athletic for her height, running the floor impressively. She is learning to face the basket more, extending her range to the 3-point line.

Defensively, Ware communicates well and can guard perimeter or post players. She's an excellent rim protector, and she usually does it without getting into foul trouble.

Ware put on a show in the summer of 2018, leading the Dakota Drillers in a tournament in Minnesota, following that with a second-place finish at the Nike Nationals in Chicago. From there, she traveled back to Minnesota to participate in a volleyball camp.

"I was pretty beaten up after that," Ware said. "I sprained my ankles, but I taped them up and kept playing."

The pounding her body takes while playing two sports is why she keeps the ice packs at the ready. Safe to say they're doing their job.

"She can get any shot she wants every time down the floor in high school," Harris said. "Her biggest thing will be in college, adjusting to girls her size on a consistent basis."

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