Trinity’s Prochaska picks up heavier work load
Trinity guard Lauren Prochaska is the fourth Chicago-area member of the Class of 2014 to commit to DePaul. | Ryan Pagelow—Sun-Times Media
Saturday Girls basketball: Vernon Hills at Trinity, 2:30 p.m.
Girls basketball: Vernon Hills at Trinity, 2:30 p.m.
Saturday Bowling: Trinity at Illinois Math & Science Academy Invitational, 8:30 a.m.
Bowling: Trinity at Illinois Math & Science Academy Invitational, 8:30 a.m.
Updated: February 11, 2013 6:32AM
RIVER FOREST — Trinity senior guard Taylor Nazon describes her team as a machine that is able to replace lost parts and keep on rolling.
Yet Nazon and everyone in the know will tell you the machine’s power source is Lauren Prochaska, and she is always plugged in.
Prochaska, a 5-foot-8 junior point guard, is the often overlooked and underrated leader of one of the most talented teams around.
“She runs the team,” Nazon said. “She’s a great leader. She picks people up. She’s really responsible.”
How responsible? Well, this season the Blazers have piled a heavy work load on Prochaska’s slim shoulders and she has responded by stepping up her game by not only directing an often high-voltage offense but also doubling her scoring from a year ago.
That has been crucial to a team that lost star senior guard Mikayla Leyden to knee surgery last month and has also played 11 games without talented 6-foot freshmen Amber Reese and Maryam Wilcher.
“We knew we were going to lean on her heavily,” Trinity coach Eddie Stritzel said. “She was one of our captains already, but when Leyden went down, then I said, ‘Lauren, now I need you scoring.’ ”
Prochaska has responded, upping her scoring average from six points a year ago to 14 this season by looking to drive to the basket as well as shoot three-pointers. That included 22 points in a 67-33 win over St. Ignatius Jan. 3 and 20 points, seven steals and six assists in an 85-60 rout of Hillcrest on Saturday, a game in which she missed seven minutes in the second quarter due to foul trouble.
The Hillcrest game illustrated how lethal Prochaska can be. The Hawks (12-4), who advanced to the Class 3A state title game in 2010 and 2011 and took third in 2012, are renowned for crushing teams with their full-court press.
But that strategy didn’t work against Prochaska, who constantly burned them by knowing when to dribble and when to pass over the press. The result was a slew of fast-break baskets for the Blazers.
“Really, I’m being objective here, but she is by far the fastest and the best pure point guard out there,” Stritzel said. “You can’t press her. People look at her and see a little scrawny kid and don’t realize how fast she is. She’s the fastest thing on two feet and she makes everything go for us. She guards their best player and she leads us in steals and assists.”
Unlike many players, Prochaska welcomes pressure.
“It’s exciting, especially since there’s so much pressure and you penetrate and you get your friend that open shot and then they hit it,” Prochaska said. “It’s just a really good feeling to know that you’re helping your teammates out, too.”
Playing half-court defense against Trinity is a better strategy, but you don’t want to give Prochaska much time to think because she’ll figure out how to attack and find the seams with quick passes.
“I think I have a pretty good IQ for the game,” Prochaska said. “I think I’m pretty fast, so on the break when they’re pressing you blow by them and then you’re able to see the floor out in front of you and then you dish off to your open teammates.”
Prochaska wasn’t always as assured on the court. She was promoted to varsity midway through her freshman year and then handed the keys to the offense as a sophomore. She responded by helping the Blazers to their best record ever, 30-2, and a trip to the sectional finals. The only team to beat Trinity last season was eventual Class 4A state champion Young.
“Freshman year I was kind of like, ‘Where am I going?’” Prochaska said. “And then sophomore year, (Stritzel) said, ‘Lauren, I’m handing you the ball, you’re playing point guard.’
“That was nerve-wracking. I was like, ‘Oh, gosh.’ He said, ‘Lauren, I have so much confidence in you, everyone does. If we didn’t you wouldn’t be in this position.’
“So I was kind of fueled with the confidence everyone has in me and built my own confidence having good games and I kept building on that.”
Trinity has not missed a beat this winter despite the graduation of all-time leading scorer, rebounder and shot-blocker Megan Podkowa, now at DePaul, and the injury to Leyden. The Blazers are 12-2 against a tough schedule and Nazon, a Loyola recruit, credits Prochaska’s leadership.
“She’s really great. I know this year she’s really stepping up her scoring, which is awesome, but she’s a very unselfish player,” Nazon said. “She’s quick and what’s great with her is she’s so humble because she doesn’t even know how good she is sometimes. We’ve got to say, ‘Lauren, you can beat them every single time.’ ”
It’s not often you hear a Division I player say she is comfortable deferring to a younger teammate, but Nazon does just that.
“I turn to Lauren sometimes myself,” Nazon said. “That’s the person I kind of verify with. She’s kind of like my mother.”