- Tom Archdeacon columnist
If ever someone has outgrown an old nickname it is Lauren Dickerson.
They call her “Lo.”
“I got it from an assistant coach in high school, but it doesn’t come from my name,” the Miami University point guard said with a shrug, then a faint smile. “It means I’m so low to the ground.”
But don’t let Dickerson’s size — she’s 5-foot-3 with her sneakers on and weighs 115 pounds — fool you.
The 19-year-old sophomore already has become a towering presence on the court.
Entering the RedHawks’ game against Toledo on Wednesday at Millett Hall, Dickerson is 10 points shy of 1,000 for her career. She reached the cusp of four digits faster than any women’s player in Miami history.
Averaging 21.4 points per game this season, she’s tied for 11th — with Wright State’s Chelsea Welch and Courtney Woods of Northern Illinois — on the NCAA Division I scoring list season.
She had a career-high 38 points against IUPU in December and, in the past three weeks, 33 against Eastern Michigan and 31 against Akron. She’s now scored in double figures 33 straight games.
Last season Dickerson was named the Mid-American Conference’s freshman of the year. And this season, her stats — from scoring to field-goal, 3-point and free-throw percentages, steals and assists — all are better than last year.
Just as impressive is her increased time on the court, She averaged 35.5 minutes. She played 43 against IUPUI and in the RedHawks’ last four games — all victories, three on the road — she played all 40 minutes in two and 39 minutes in another.
The 14-8 RedHawks already have won more games this season than in each of the past four years, each of those a losing campaign.
Dickerson said a big reason for her improvement and the team’s success is new coach Megan Duffy and her staff.
Duffy has gotten the players to believe in themselves and especially helped Dickerson continue to blossom.
In the case of the latter, it’s one point guard mentoring another.
Duffy was a standout player, first with the Dayton Lady HoopStars, where she was part of three national titles, and then at Chaminade Julienne High School, which was coached by Frank Goldsberry, who is now a stalwart on her Miami staff.
At CJ, Duffy led the Eagles to the state title as a freshman and was MVP of the tournament. Although she tore her ACL 13 games into her senior season, she still won All-Ohio honors that year and finished her career with 1,436 points.
At Notre Dame, she scored 1,290 points and had over 500 assists and 200 steals.
A third-round draft pick of the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx, she also played for the New York Liberty and had a pro career overseas in Wales, Italy, Slovakia and Romania.
As an assistant coach at St. John’s, George Washington and Michigan, she helped develop some of the better guards in the game recently, including the Red Storm’s Nadirah McKenith who went to the WNBA and the Wolverines’ all-time assist leader Siera Thompson and all-time scorer (men and women) Katelynn Flaherty.
Yet, when Duffy was first announced as the new Miami coach last April, Dickerson admits, “I had never heard of her before.”
Then again, she was 7 when Duffy finished her career at Notre Dame.
“But I Googled her and I heard the stories,” Dickerson smiled. “I found out pretty quickly she was good.
Dickerson said she was first introduced to basketball back home in Indianapolis where she watched older kids play on a court in her grandmother’s backyard.
Soon her dad was taking her to play at German Church Park.
“I’d play with all boys and I know they thought, ‘Who is this little girl coming up to me to check the ball?’ ” she said. “Right off, I wanted to show them: ‘You’re not just gonna bully me out here.’”
She said she got some of the same attitude from opponents when she was in high school at Lawrence North in Indianapolis: “I used that as a challenge to make me better.”
Before her junior season she tore her ACL, and though she came back strong as a senior, the injury and her size kept some college coaches from pursuing her. She said she had five Division I offers.
Miami’s former coach Cleve Wright never wavered, and that commitment struck a chord with her.
She started all 32 games for the RedHawks last season and averaged 16.3 points. The team finished 11-19 and Wright — who had a 35-87 record in four years — was fired after the season.
When Duffy was hired off the Michigan staff, she said she knew who Dickerson was:
“I knew about the year she’d had in the MAC as a freshman and I knew about her high school program. Lawrence North has had a ton of prospects come out of there.
“I knew I was lucky to inherit a playmaker like her.”
Finding a match
While they are connected by the point guard position, Duffy and Dickerson both agree their personalities are quite different.
“I’d always joked that the Good Lord put me on this earth to coach a point guard who wasn’t as chatty and talkative as I was,” Duffy laughed. “That way I’d understand there a lot of different ways to run the position and embrace it.
“In fact, all the point guards I’ve coached are so different. Some are boisterous, some are real quiet.”
While Dickerson fell in the latter category, the coach saw there was also a real flair to her.
“She’s got a little swagger and a ton of style to her,” Duffy said. “She’s studying design now. One day she wants to have her own sunglasses line and kind of get into the fashion world.”
Monday when we spoke, Dickerson showed up at Millett Hall wearing a pink Victoria’s Secret jogging suit.
“Whatever I’m wearing, I try to match everything,” she said. “I want to be seen as art almost.”
When she’s on the court this season, you can appreciate her artistry, as well.
“She has a really versatile skill set,” Duffy said. “She already understands how to create space and how to finish against bigger people. And she can shoot really well.”
And while she’s learning to better use those tools, it took a little time for the bond to develop between the head coach and the point guard.
“I’m more of a standoffish person and she’s more the come here type,” Dickerson smiled
Duffy agreed: “She was initially very quiet and shy. I knew it was going to take time to build a relationship. We had one-on-one talks and we went to lunch and we began to hit it off.
“The neat thing is that we’ve been able to connect on so many levels: ACL injuries. Handling pressure. Being the best player on your team. Dealing with expectations from the outside and ones you put on yourself.
“What’s been a treat is that from day one she’s allowed me to coach her.
“I wanted her to keep the swagger she’d had in high school and then Coach Ke’sha (assistant coach Ke’sha Blanton) and I were going to teach her to play the position.”
Dickerson said Duffy has helped her develop on several fronts:
“She helped my vision a lot so that I see different options. And I have a better voice now, too. I know what to say and when to say it. I’ve learned I have a power with others. The things I say and do and even my moods affect them.”
She said she and Duffy now are in constant communication: “During a game, every little time out, every free throw, I come over and ask her about a play we can use or what I missed or if there’s something I should be saying. It helps because she knows what I’m seeing out there. What I’m feeling. I’m becoming a better player now.”
And so, as she continues to grow, maybe it is time to get rid of that low to the ground nickname.
Then again, the one she’d be left with wouldn’t quite define her either.
“Yeah, I do have another nickname,” she smiled. “My family still calls me it to this day. My grandma started it.
“They call me Poopie.”