March 8, 2024 

In Starkville, Lauren Park-Lane learns what she’s made of

Park-Lane talks to The Next about the Starkville leg of her journey

GREENVILLE, S.C. — When Lauren Park-Lane plays, there isn’t a hint of a smile. Her game is just like her expression: serious, focused, almost inquisitive, and totally locked in. Whether Mississippi State is up 10 or down 20, like they were on Thursday, Park-Lane’s intensity — and expression — stays the same.

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Thursday’s 72-56 loss to Texas A&M might have landed the Bulldogs on the wrong side of the NCAA Tournament bubble, but you wouldn’t have known from talking to Park-Lane. After expressing her disappointment in the loss, she immediately explained that they just needed to get back to practice to work it out.

“I just never want to give up, never want to lay down and die to anybody,” Park-Lane told The Next after Mississippi State’s SEC Tournament departure. “That mindset sometimes I’ve wavered from it, but having a support system around me: teammates, staff, parents. They keep me going with that. Don’t ever give up. Don’t give up.”

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Deleware roots

Park Lane’s family is Deleware basketball royalty. She puts it modestly: “I come from a basketball family” — her uncles and cousins were state champions and college hoopers, and thrilled she followed suit.

“Just being a Park was a big thing,” Park-Lane explained.

Other than her own family, Park-Lane spent her childhood looking up to the epitome of a Deleware basketball legend: Elena Delle Donne. According to Park-Lane, everything in her childhood bedroom was signed by Delle Donne.

Similar to her childhood idol, Park-Lane stayed close to home for most of her basketball career. For four years, she was a Seton Hall Pirate before making the jump to Mississippi State for her final year of eligibility.

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Heading south

At Seton Hall, the 5’3 senior averaged 20.8 points and 6.3 assists per game. In contrast, this season, she’s averaging just 9.6 points per game. But it’s not for lack of trying. Unlike her leading scorer role in the Big East, Park-Lane now runs the point in Starkville. 

“I knew it was gonna be different, but I never imagined it’d be that different,” Park-Lane laughed. “Everyone’s bigger, stronger, faster [in the SEC]. I think that was the biggest thing. And also the mental piece. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing the bottom of the bottom or the cream of the crop, you have to come out mentally ready every single night.”

Park-Lane explained the role transition took a lot of mental fight, and her support system was the only thing that kept her going. 

“From her visit I wanted Lauren here. l told Lauren, ‘we need you,’” teammate Jessika Carter told The Next. “The way she leads a team. Today even though we lost, I heard her voice. I’ve seen so much from her, growing-wise.”

The love between Park-Lane and her teammates appears mutual: she’s needed to lean on them, and they’ve needed to lean on her to be a complete team. And the feelings are mutual off the court as well.

“She got swag,” senior guard Jerkaila Jordan told The Next. “She likes fashion. She just, she’s real cool.”

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Although Park-Lane’s offensive production has dipped for various reasons, she’s found her core. Park-Lane says that this season has equipped her with life skills and flexibility she’ll use for life. And on the court, she’s making just as much impact as she did at Seton Hall, just in other ways. Park-Lane is just six assists away from beating Mississippi State’s single-season assist record (202).

“I really didn’t even know until like two games ago that I was actually [going to] break it,” Park-Lane said. “It’s just cool to see that I did the same thing at Seton Hall and I came here and did the same thing. It’s just cool to be in the history books here and I only spent nine months here.”

After the Bulldogs’ SEC Tournament loss, it’s unclear where Park-Lane’s college career will end — either with her first NCAA tournament or another shot at the WNIT. But regardless, she’ll always have the history books.

Written by Gabriella Lewis

Gabriella is The Next's Atlanta Dream and SEC beat reporter. She is a Bay Area native currently studying at Emory University.

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