Eudora’s Kracl wins national AAU Championship
Making first team Frontier League and being named honorable mention All-State as a freshman might make some young athletes rest on their laurels. In case you were wondering, 6- feet tall Eudora High School sophomore Lauren Kracl doesn't happen to be one of those athletes.
Gaining national exposure is essential for athletes such as Kracl, who want the recognition of major collegiate programs.
While local colleges like Baker, St. Mary and Washburn have been paying attention to Kracl, the letters from Big 12 schools have been gradually occupying the family's mailbox in recent months.
A major reason Kracl, who averaged 13.2 points and 12 rebounds for the Cardinals last season, is well on her way to gaining national exposure can be attributed to her participation on a carefully selected 14 and under AAU team known as the Mo-Kan Hoop Service.
The Hoop Service won a national AAU championship in Lafayette, La. where 77 other teams had their eyes on the prize. In preparation for the national tournament, Hoop Service's team members honed their skills by playing solely teams that were two or three years older than them.
"It was a really good experience and it helped me work on my skills for high school," Kracl said. "
Kracl, who plays center for EHS, had to adjust to her role with the AAU team and play small forward and shooting guard during her first year with the team. In the past, Kracl competed with the Lawrence Flames AAU team but decided to join the Kansas City-based team after hearing about it from EHS Coach Gretchen Freeland, a former EHS and Emporia State basketball player.
Freeland played for Hoop Service coaches Les Eidson and Bob Benson while she was in high school and felt the tournament would be a great opportunity for a talented young player like Kracl to gain the same experience.
"I think it is very exciting that Lauren got the chance to play in the tournament," Freeland said. "She gets so much college exposure from each tournament. I think it will help our team out this season that she has the taste of a major victory and will be hungry for more."
The leaps and bounds that Kracl made while improving her game as well as her ability to contribute to a team that had already won national championships in 1997 and 1999 impressed Eidson.
"Lauren fit in great with the team and hit the winning the shot in an overtime game against the Tennessee players," Eidson said. "She gained confidence at the national level and will be a tremendous asset to her high school team."
Kracl also learned things from Eidson's style of basketball that she plans on applying at EHS.
"Coach Eidson is a really intense coach who teaches a lot of the fundamentals and man to man defense," Kracl said.
With the graduation of senior leader and co-MVP Jessica Bryant, Kracl knows that she will need to perform well for the Cardinals to be a presence in the Frontier League this season.
"I learned to be aggressive, to be positive and to improve my defense from Coach Freeland," Kracl said. "Next season, I'll have to step up and be a scorer, rebounder and all-around player. I want to have a better record (than 7-14) next year."
While Kracl may be one of the area's most talented girls basketball players, she isn't 100 percent sold on playing the sport at the next level.
"It will be a really tough decision but I like both sports about the same," Kracl said. "I like the team-oriented things of both basketball and volleyball."
A standout volleyball player, Kracl was named the team Most Valuable Player and named to the All-Frontier League team. Kracl, who also played shortstop for the EHS varsity, started out with the junior varsity squad before making the step up early in the spring.
Regardless of her future, Kracl said the opportunity to play in a nationally renowned basketball tournament was a great experience beyond the sports and competitive aspects of it.
"It was a very good experience meeting players from other states during the tournament," Kracl said. "I also have a lot of friends on my team from the Kansas City and Topeka areas."