March 28, 2024 

Lauren Schwartz leaves lasting legacy at Washington

Several Huskies credit Schwartz with helping change the UW culture

SEATTLE — With four seconds left and facing a deficit of eight points, the Huskies knew they were about to lose. So Washington head coach Tina Langley made one last substitution, bringing senior Lauren Schwartz off the floor and into her embrace.

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As Schwartz stepped off the court for the final time in her college career, the entire arena stood to show their love and appreciation, giving Schwartz an emotional standing ovation. Even the referees held off putting the ball back in play, allowing the Huskies’ leader to have her moment.

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Hosting the first round of the inaugural Women’s Basketball Invitational Tournament (WBIT), an early loss was not how Washington wanted their season to end. But it wasn’t just the end of the season for Schwartz — it was the end of a five-year college career. Having spent all five of those years playing for head coach Tina Langley, first for two seasons at Rice and then the last three at UW, Schwartz has been instrumental in rebuilding Washington’s program alongside Langley.

Attempting to put words to her emotions, Schwartz took a moment to wipe her tears with a WBIT-branded towel, comforted by her head coach. Holding back more tears, Schwartz told media, “I’m grateful to be here at Washington. I started my career at Rice. I love that place, love that opportunity to play there, but I think the opportunity to play at Washington was pretty amazing.”

Lauren Schwartz defends with arms wide, backpeddling against an Oregon State player.
Lauren Schwartz (2) defends an Oregon State player on February 25, 2024, at Alaska Airlines Arena in Seattle, Washington. (Photo Credit: Scott Eklund/Red Box Pictures/UW Athletics)

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With her eyes red and her voice slightly trembling, Schwartz continued, “The fans, the support, playing for Coach Langley, and just the people that she brings in is just phenomenal. And I’m just really grateful of my last five years and just really proud to see where it goes. I’m glad that I got to be a small part of it and kind of help start it.”

Langley also teared up and was emotional about Schwartz’s departure, but took the opportunity to praise her leadership and role in helping build the program and the culture she wanted to see.

Lauren Schwartz dribbles the basketball at speed while Kelsey Ransom chases back defensively.
Lauren Schwartz (2) dribbles the basketball while being chased by Kelsey Ransom (1) in the WBIT first round matchup at Alaska Airlines Arena in Seattle, Washington on Thursday, March 21. (Photo Credit: UW Athletics)

“I thought Lauren’s ability to teach culture this year — with some of our returning players — but Lauren was tremendous in leading that and that gives us that fuel into the next year where young people have to continue to step up and kind of own that this is our team and, and the way we want to do things,” Langley said.

Even Schwartz felt how the importance of culture was imparted to the younger players: “I think we’ve learned a lot of how much culture matters. I feel like with a young team implementing the culture into them and just them understanding and taking control of the culture, it’s gonna lead to a lot of great years in the future, and I’m really excited to watch them.”

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Setting the Husky standard

There was one specific aspect of the team’s budding culture that came up constantly as Langley and her players spoke about their senior leader. Langley specifically felt that one of her team’s biggest areas of growth this year was in “understanding the consistency it takes to be great.”

She credited Schwartz — along with her fellow senior Nia Lowery, who rarely saw the court due to numerous injuries — for modeling that while leading with great maturity and character. Schwartz’s teammates, including Pac-12 All-Freshman Team honoree Sayvia Sellers, echoed that sentiment after the season-ending loss.

“Just having her as a teammate was just the best. She shows up every day and she’s the same person every day, no matter what she’s going through, you know you can always count on Lauren to be there for you. So I’m just grateful that I got to play with her and learn a lot from her.” The usually quiet freshman’s last heartfelt message was delivered directly to Schwartz, “I’m gonna miss you.”

Back after the team pulled off an upset victory over Oregon State on their senior night, sophomore guard Elle Ladine also gave credit to Schwartz. “I mean for me, what I’ve learned from Lauren is consistency. She’s really the same person every day and she just is there for other people.”

After Ladine, junior forward Dalayah Daniels added, “I think Lu [Lauren Schwartz] just does so much for this team, and I’m not talking about basketball, she is like the heart and soul of our culture.”

Lauren Schwartz poses with her family on Senior Night.
Lauren Schwartz is honored on Senior Night with her family before Washington plays Oregon State on February 25, 2024, at Alaska Airlines Arena in Seattle, Washington. (Photo Credit: Scott Eklund/Red Box Pictures/UW Athletics)

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The junior told media about how you would never know if Schwartz was having a bad day because she doesn’t show it. “That’s what good leaders do, you gotta come in every single day and just be the best version of yourself.”

While Daniels refused to cry, holding onto the games they still had left to play together at that time, she already knew Schwartz’s constant guidance and direction will be missed, but she will miss her teammate the most. So, too, will Langley.

“We came together, years ago and we’ve been through a lot,” Langley said. “I love this kid. I love these kids. They become your kids. And this kid’s character is incredible. You hear all of her teammates talk about the leader that she is and she’s been a great leader for all of us. She came to Rice with me and then to Washington and helped us build culture and be a great influence. So I want to say thank you her.”

Lauren Schwartz of Washington goes up for a shot.
Lauren Schwartz (2) goes up for the shot against Oregon State on February 25, 2024, at Alaska Airlines Arena in Seattle, Washington. (Photo Credit: Scott Eklund/Red Box Pictures/UW Athletics)

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But for as much as she’s helped in the culture aspect, Schwartz also made a considerable impact for the Huskies on the court, helping the resurgent season in the Pac-12. A defensive stalwart, often guarding taller players in the post but able to switch to the perimeter with ease, the 5’11 forward contributed to endless defensive stops both individually and by organizing her teammates.

On the offensive end, Schwartz always had a knack for hitting big shots in important moments. She started every single game of her career — 144 total, 88 of those at UW. In her three seasons at UW, Schwartz scored 900 points, brought in 224 rebounds, dished out 189 assists, and registered 80 steals and 30 blocks. She scored over 1,500 points in her college career.

Heading to the Big Ten

Next season the University of Washington will be playing in the Big Ten conference against the likes of Iowa, Maryland, Indiana as well as their West Coast rivals Oregon, UCLA and USC. While the Pac-12 will be dearly missed, Langley is excited for the future.

“I think the Big Ten is a tremendous league [in regards to] women’s basketball,” Langley said. “Great fan support, great coaches and players and I think we’re just excited to compete in that league and see us continue to grow and get better together.”

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Washington heads into the offseason with their two most senior on- and off-court leaders departing. In addition to Schwartz, senior guard Jayda Noble — sister of Seattle Storm’s Gabby Williams — announced her decision to enter the transfer portal for her final season of eligibility.

The Huskies are still young and have a ways to go, but the ones who were fortunate enough to learn from Schwartz will carry those values into the future as they continue building.

Though Schwartz will never appear on the court again for the Huskies, her legacy and the leadership she brought will live on.

Written by Bella Munson

Bella has been a contributor for The Next since September 2023 and is the site's Seattle Storm beat reporter. She also writes for The Equalizer while completing her Journalism & Public Interest Communication degree at the University of Washington.

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