During her final season with Philomath High’s girls basketball program, Lauren Berklund hadn’t made a final decision on whether or not she wanted to play at the next level.
Berklund uploaded film and her information on a recruiting site and a few colleges had shown an interest. Her parents — the two people that know her better than anyone — were pretty confident she would want to continue playing. But Berklund herself wasn’t so sure.
After the Warriors’ season ended with an appearance in the Class 4A state tournament, Berklund received a call from Jain Tuey, the head coach of the College of the Redwoods women’s basketball team in Eureka, California.
“The coach called me basically after basketball season and said she wanted to get in contact with me about playing there,” Berklund said. “Earlier in the season, I had been talking to some other schools but I wasn’t positive I wanted to play, so I just stopped talking to them basically.
“My parents knew, saying ‘she’s not going to not play basketball in college,’” she added. “This school called me and this was all I got and I decided I wanted to play.”
Although the options might’ve dried up for Berklund, she feels College of the Redwoods will be a great opportunity to keep playing the sport. Plus, a familiar feel will exist with the Corsairs.
“The coach is a super, young coach in her second year there and she’s building a program, which I was involved with at this school,” Berklund said in reference to Philomath’s transition from Dave Garvin her first three years to Ben Silva her senior season. “Being a part of building a program will be awesome. And it’s a pretty campus, small little town — I’m used to that.”
Silva believes that background could be an asset.
“That might be helpful because she’ll be going to a whole new system,” Silva said. “She did a great job of adapting (at Philomath).”
College of the Redwoods, a two-year school, went 7-16 overall last season.
“The last couple of years, I’m not sure how much success they’ve had but last year, they were competitive against the top teams in their league,” Berklund said. “It’s about getting over the hump and finding that success.”
Tuey played collegiately herself in California at Shasta College, College of the Redwoods and Humboldt State before getting into coaching.
“She said she saw my film from my junior year when I was shooting 3s more often than this year,” Berklund said. “She wants to have a bigger girl outside and they want to run a faster game, similar to what we did this year. I was glad to hear about that because I would be comfortable playing in that type of game.”
Silva knows Berklund has the talent to play anywhere on the court.
“She’s pretty versatile for her size and can get on the outside,” he said. “She can also play down low and get rebounds and play a little bit with her back to the basket.”
Berklund earned all-conference honors with the Warriors as one of team’s weapons on both ends of the floor.
“I’m a competitor and I always have been,” Berklund said. “My parents were saying, ‘you can play rec league’ but I’m way too competitive for that.”
Silva saw those important qualities in Berklund’s athletic makeup.
“I think probably the biggest thing was her work ethic and what it takes to be successful,” Silva said. “She really learned to come out and work hard every day.”
Beyond the competitive gene, Berklund also just enjoys team camaraderie.
“Just the physicalness of being out on the court and those bonds you make with your teammates,” she said when asked why she loves basketball so much. “I found some of my closest friends in basketball, like Emma Pankalla, we’ve become super close friends.”
Berklund said she’ll be the first in her immediate family to play college sports. She does have a cousin, Haylie Bennett, who plays Division 1 volleyball at Oregon State.
Now that she’s committed to continuing the sport, Berklund hopes to keep it going for four years.
“These coaches talked to me about that,” she said. “If I show an interest in wanting to play at a higher level than there, they would definitely help me get there and push me to that level.”
That ability to adapt and contribute quality minutes might give Berklund an edge heading in.
“Getting a new coach was difficult but it’s something you have to deal with,” she said about her senior season with PHS. “This year (at College of the Redwoods) with the new coaches and a whole new team, you don’t get very long to form a connection with them and form that bond on the court.”
Berklund plans to major in kinesiology with hopes to land an athletics-related job in the future.
“I just want to stay in the sports world,” she said.