Well before Thunder Ridge High School existed, Lauren Davenport made an impression on her future varsity coach.
She was a middle school student playing on a travel team called the Squirrels, already finding success and getting acclimated to busy offseasons. Thunder Ridge head coach Jeremy Spencer, who previously coached at Sandcreek Middle School, said he recognized her skill set right away and noted that she was a player to watch in years to come.
"She's one of those girls that looks like she has a good future," Spencer said. "You could tell if she put the work in, she was gonna be a force."
Four years later, Spencer's observations have come to fruition. Through Thunder Ridge's first 16 games, Davenport is averaging 5.25 rebounds, 2.75 assists, 1.75 steals and a team-best 14.4 points per game while shooting 43 percent from 2-point range, 23.7 percent from 3-point range, and leads the team at 78.7 percent from the free throw line.
One thing that was perhaps not so foreseen was how much Davenport would grow. Now a 5-foot-11 junior, Davenport has prompted arguably more preparation from opposing teams.
Davenport started playing basketball in third grade because her mom thought it would be something fun for her to do, and one of her earliest memories is playing with boys at the YMCA. She has played every position throughout her career, and she said she considers 3-point shooting one of her strengths.
Her height and shooting range drew much attention on Thunder Ridge's inaugural underclassmen-laden team last year. She said she enters games expecting to be heavily defended, and she has decided to let it fuel her rather than discourage her.
"That's how I see it," Davenport said. "Other teams, they always have their best defender on me. I know if I involve my teammates, they're gonna find me open."
Exactly how tough she is to defend has been brought up in conversations Spencer has had with college recruiters. No matter what aspect of Davenport's game opponents try to shut down, there is something else to account for.
"If you try to defend her outside shot, it opens up the dribble drive," Spencer said. "If you cut off the dribble drive, she'll shoot from outside. She's a tough cover, no doubt. She's a girl who works hard and wants to get up to the rim."
Bonneville head coach Ryan Erikson, whose team is ranked No. 1 in 4A in the state media poll, has coached against a player with similarities to Davenport at the 3A level. While Erikson coached at South Fremont, Jenna Abbott played for Teton. A three-sport athlete who also grew to 5-foot-11, Abbott averaged 18.6 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game while shooting 55.8 percent from the field and 37.8 percent from 3-point range during her senior season of 2016-17 and left Teton with 1,461 career points.
While their tendencies, backgrounds and teams are not mirror image, Erikson said the height and range are comparable, as is the game planning for it.
"Jenna was more comfortable inside whereas Lauren is more comfortable outside," Erikson said. "As far as the size and the shooting ability, she's just like Jenna. You just hope she misses. She's a threat from anywhere."
While eastern Idaho 5A and 4A schools know Davenport as the tall, dynamic shooting guard, few outside of Thunder Ridge may know about the dreams she is working toward after graduation. Basketball is indeed a big part of her life, but academics is a top priority as well. Her recruitment thus far is a testament to that. Since visiting Johns Hopkins and Columbia last summer, she has heard from Dartmouth, Princeton and Cornell and she has also received a letter from Harvard.
Playing college basketball, specifically NCAA Division I college basketball, has been a serious goal of Davenport's since the beginning of her sophomore year. She has another dream, however, of studying to become a trauma surgeon. She lights up when she talks about both of these dreams and the prospects of making them come true.
"School is really more important because I know basketball is gonna end at some point," Davenport said. "All these opportunities these colleges are giving me, I'm so grateful for all of them. We'll see how I end up where I end up."
As much as she looks forward to the future, she said she is enjoying the present. The Titans are 12-6 and 3-1 in 5A District 5-6 with three games left in the regular season. A year ago with almost the exact same players, the Titans were 6-13 overall and 1-4 in 5A District 5-6.
Spencer said during their inaugural season a year ago, the Titans entered games hoping to compete. This year, they still want to compete but they also expect to win.
"I think a big part of it is you try to surround yourself with great people," Spencer said. "Every single one of these girls works hard. The coaches that put in all the time in the summer... everything is kinda intertwined."
All of Thunder Ridge's sports teams brought together athletes from Bonneville and Hillcrest last year and half the task was adjusting to all new everything--new coaches, new teammates, new systems. With the first year behind them, Davenport said the Titans communicate better and play more like a team.
"It's just a whole different game," Davenport said. "I feel like we're gonna be talented for a while because we're all so young. We still have so much to uncover. We're just now starting to get to it."
Davenport's role has also changed in year two of the Titans' existence. She is now among a plethora of contributors for Thunder Ridge that includes Sierra John (4.3 assists per game, 2.9 steals per game, 31.3 percent 3-point shooting), Avery Turnage (1.75 blocks per game, 51.1 percent 2-point field goal shooting), Paige Clark (7.9 rebounds per game) and Aspen Caldwell (78 percent free throw shooting). Spencer said Davenport has better awareness this year of when to pass instead of shoot, adding that she is a confident and focused teammate.
"You see girls that look up to her," Spencer said. "What she brings is that confidence to the table. Everybody wants to work harder. Lauren, she's a gamer. As a teammate you know she's got your back. She'll do whatever she has to do to help her team, everything in her power."
Davenport also recognizes the history she is making with the Titans. Within the next year, she could become Thunder Ridge's first women's college basketball signee. She and her teammates are also the first to ever play varsity girls basketball for Thunder Ridge. Setting the foundation and example for future Titans is not something Davenport takes lightly.
"If you're gonna get (your picture) hung up somewhere in the school, everyone's going to see it," she said. "It's a huge opportunity."