Mansfield prepares to head back to Australia after finishing Iowa State career

Dean Berhow-Goll

Lauren Mansfield is just like every other senior guard. That is, unless you count the fact that she grew up playing basketball in Australia. 

Mansfield hails from the southern coast of Australia from the city of Adelaide. 

Basketball was always going to be part of who Mansfield was. She grew up with basketball in her blood as her dad, Barry, and mom, Sue, both played basketball. Her sister Tahnee even plays on the club team Barry coaches, the Northern Adelaide Rockets.

“I grew up in a basketball family,” Lauren said. “My mom and dad both played. They both coached me from a young age, so all of my siblings played [and] I kind of grew into that.

“Basketball was always a big thing on the weekends. We’d always be watching my brother or my sister. I kind of grew into that, so I instantly fell in love with the game.”

Lauren’s favorite player growing up was Patrick Mills. Mills played a short stint in the NBA with the Portland Trail Blazers. As much as she loved watching Mills, her inspiration growing up was her brother, Jay. 

“I grew up watching him play, so I was always just mesmerized by watching him,” Lauren said. “He’s a real creative player. He likes to do fancy moves, so it was always exciting to watch him play. I just always wanted to grow up and be as good as he was.”

Children who love basketball often grow up shooting hoops in their driveway, having a parent teach them how to dribble or the correct way to shoot a jump shot. Mansfield not only had her dad play that role, he also coached her club team. 

Growing up, unlike in the United States, Lauren’s school in Australia didn’t have a basketball team, so she had to play on a club team.

“My dad made a club, he recruited a bunch of players to come and play,” Lauren said. “At that point, I played up a grade because we didn’t have a team for my age.”

In high school, Lauren excelled in basketball as she played for the North Adelaide Rockets. She even was able to represent Australia in the World University Games in 2009.

After Lauren finished high school, she went to Midland Community College in Texas to play basketball. She played two years there and was awarded an NJCAA All-American honorable mention.

Lauren led Midland to the Elite Eight in the NJCAA tournament. That’s when ISU coach Bill Fennelly noticed her. 

“We felt like we needed someone who could come in and play right away,” Fennelly said. “We liked her game, we liked her versatility because we thought she could play the one or the two and we felt like she was a good fit at the time. All the things kind of came together and we’re certainly glad she came.”

Having a coach like Fennelly can be intimidating and a challenge, but Lauren didn’t hesitate to say how much she’s appreciated having him as a teacher.

“He’s definitely the most passionate coach that I’ve ever been coached by for sure,” Lauren said. “The thing that I respect the most about coach Fen[nelly] is he expects more out of his players than they would think they can do and I think that helps them become better. 

“When your coach is expecting something of you where you don’t even know if you can do it, I think that makes you better.”

As a senior, it can be difficult not to start peeking at the schedule and counting how many games there are remaining. Mansfield had that thought creep into her head one day at practice.

“Coach Fennelly called me over the other day as I was having a bad practice,” Lauren said. “He said, ‘Lauren, you’ve only got seven games left.’ I was kind of like wow, it just clicked that I don’t have that much time left. I’ve got to pick it up.”

When asked, Fennelly knew what moment Lauren spoke of and said he knows what she is dealing with as a senior in the home stretch of her career at Iowa State. 

“I think all seniors want it to end well,” Fennelly said. “I think she’s a kid that loves the game. She wants to, I really believe, be in that discussion of what that senior did in their senior year at Iowa State. So hopefully these last six games, especially the last four home games, will be special.”

Mansfield compared playing in her hometown gym to Hilton Coliseum and how each place has a special meaning to her. The two places are drastically different — Hillcrest Stadium is a small gymnasium with only one row of seating around the outside compared to Hilton, which has been in the top five in attendance in the nation the past five consecutive years. 

“It’s tiny,” Lauren said of Hillcrest Stadium. “When I’m in Hilton, I just think, ‘Wow, this is what I dreamed about,’ playing at a place like Hilton.”

After she graduates, Lauren will move on to play in the league. That league, however, is not the WNBA. It’s the Women’s National Basketball League in Australia where she’ll play on the North Adelaide Rockets.

Even though she’s excited to head back to her home, she said she will miss being in Ames. 

“It’s sad I’m not going to play college anymore,” Lauren said. “I’m not going to be here with these amazing crowds and these amazing atmospheres. You’ve got people that look after you, it’s like a family here.

“You really have a solid support system. So I’m going to be really sad to leave all that, it’s going to be crazy to never play in Hilton again.” 

Sadness could be heard resonating in her voice as she talked about leaving the fans at Hilton and leaving what will be her home of two years.

Once she started talking about being home with her family, her melancholy tone changed into a smile thinking of home.

She said she was thinking about seeing her sister, Tahnee. She said she was thinking of her sister Kelly, who by that time will have a new baby niece or nephew, and of playing with her niece Marlee, whom she’s barely been able to see since she’s been in Iowa.

She said she was thinking of playing her brother Jay in one-on-one, playing at Hillcrest Stadium for Northern Adelaide with Barry coaching.

Aside from all her family, she said she was thinking about the beautiful weather on the southern coast of Australia compared to the harsh, cold winter of Iowa. 

“I can’t wait to get back to that,” Lauren said with a smile. “The first thing I’m going to do is go to the beach.”