HARRISONBURG — Lauren D’Agostino is funny – but it’s not always intentional.
The Eastern Mennonite High School junior moved from Australia for this academic year, and sometimes she’ll say an unusual word or phrase that makes her girls’ basketball teammates giggle. When asked for examples during practice Monday, she yelled across the court to teammates for help.
One teammate after another jogged over to D’Agostino to provide an example – to the point that practice completely came to a halt, as the entire team gathered around to contribute and listen in to the conversation.
It’s been a sharing environment at EMHS ever since D’Agostino arrived. In fact, she’s helped promote it.
The 5-foot-7 point guard is averaging 5.6 assists per game, four more than any one else on the Flames (14-3 overall, 4-0 in the Blue Ridge Conference). And she’s doing other things, too; she scores 10.2 points per game (second on the team) while shooting 52 percent (first), she’s getting 4.8 steals per game (first) and she even leads the team in rebounds (5.2 rpg).
But D’Agostino’s game is based on unselfishness. When asked where that comes from, her initial response was a common one: smiling widely through her braces, she shrugged her shoulders.
“I’ve just always been like that,” she said. “I guess from a young age, I’ve been a passer first, so to speak. I don’t know. I’ve just never been one of those players who’s like, ‘Yeah, I’m going to score 30 points every game.’ …It’s just me being me, I guess.”
Basketball is one of the reasons she’s in the United States.
Born and raised in Sydney, D’Agostino was always an athlete growing up – not only basketball, but also tennis and netball, a sport like basketball but without dribbling.
D’Agostino wanted to come to the U.S., she said, to eventually attend college here, both for the education and the possibility of playing college hoops. She has family friends in Harrisonburg, and they recommended it as a destination.
Originally, D’Agostino was supposed to attend high school at Stonewall Jackson, a public school in Quicksburg. But when a logistical problem arose at the last minute – D’Agostino wasn’t sure what, saying that her parents, who still live in Australia, handled it – she landed at private EMHS.
It didn’t take EMHS coach Jolene Kratz long to like what she saw.
“I met her at open gyms, and she gave me a little highlight [film] that she had,” Kratz said. “I was watching her and I was like, ‘Oh, we’ve got something good here.’”
Junior Alex Black, who leads EMHS in scoring (15.3 ppg), needed just a little more convincing.
“She walked in and she had tennis shoes on, not basketball shoes,” Black said. “So I was kind of like, ‘Oh, great, someone who doesn’t know basketball.’ But she ended up being way good.”
Moving away from her parents, naturally, was tough. But D’Agostino has found a home with the basketball team. In her spare time, she’s often lounging at a teammate’s house. It helps that she’s outgoing and chatty. She hasn’t had much trouble making friends.
D’Agostino, though, isn’t your typical teenage girl. Her only hobby, she insists, is sports – playing and watching.
“I’d rather go to a basketball game than go shopping – I know that sounds really sad,” she said laughing. “My mom and my sister are more like, ‘Yeah, we’ll go shopping.’ I’d rather go to a game with my dad or watch a game with him, or something like that.”
Other than a couple minor basketball rules adjustments – like waiting for the ball to hit the rim on free throws – acclimating on the court has been the easy part.
There are some language barriers. Sometimes when D’Agostino calls out the play, her teammates can’t understand her because of the Aussie accent. They often need a translation for Australian slang like “bubbly” (water fountain), “swing the wings” (switching sides on the court), “jumpers” (sweat shirt), “Mackers” (McDonald’s), “hot chips” (French fries) and plenty of others.
But D’Agostino doesn’t mind the teasing. She openly enjoyed listening to teammates provide examples of puzzling Australian lingo.
As with everything else, D’Agostino likes sharing.
“She spreads it [the ball] out very evenly to everybody,” Kratz said. “Many games, I’m counting eight, nine, 10 people who have scored in that game. How do you stop that?”