Lefthand, 18, Polson High School Senior and point guard for
the Lady Pirates has been invited to participate in the Down
Under Sports Mountain Conference Girls Basketball Team hosted
on the Gold Coast of Australia this summer. "I am honored
to be an ambassador of not only community and state but also
our country," said Lefthand. (Courtesy photo)
Polson, MT The lifetime passion and dedication of basketball
opened up a once-in-a-lifetime over-seas opportunity for Polson
High School Senior Lauren Lefthand. However, the chance to go to
Australia this summer did not come from winning championships or
winning games for that matter; it was from the skills she gained
as a person on the court.
"I'm excited and honored to play (for Montana) and a chance
to play with other people," said Lauren.
Lauren received word this month that the International Down
Under Sports of Australia selected her to represent Montana on the
2017 Montana Mountain Conference Girls Basketball Team in July.
"It's just super," said her grandmother Naida Lefthand. "You
don't hear about too many students getting this kind of opportunity
to be able to go outside the country to play ball."
It's not the most common news to hear a student from a community
receiving such an honor, however, Lefthand comes from a dedicated
basketball family says her dad, Oskie Lefthand. When Lauren's older
brother Payton was in eighth grade, he was selected to travel to
England to play basketball through the National Basketball Camps.
Oskie said the love of basketball was instilled in all three
of his kids for as long as they could remember. He said it was basketball
that kept his young mind focused and away from "the bad stuff" and
he wanted the same and even more for his own kids.
"I always taught them it wasn't just about shooting a basketball,"
said Oskie. It was also about bigger opportunities he added.
Oskie said when Lauren was a kid along with her other siblings
he was running drills in their living room, and even helped coach
throughout their lives.
"Lauren always had a high I.Q. in basketball. I seen in fourth
grade as a point guard her stepping up to leadership," said her
Lauren started playing in 3 on 3 basketball matches since the
fourth grade. Although, well skilled in the game, Lauren said her
high school season wasn't so hot.
Through it all, she said, the lesson learned was "You lose some
and you win some."
"It (basketball) taught me a lot in life, especially playing
with teams. Even though we were losing; I'd keep pushing the team
to not give up," said Lauren.
"I watched her team getting beat by 30 points and see Lauren
get in there and encourage her team mates," said her mother, Renee
Pierre. "That's just her to make the best out it," Pierre said.
"Being a team leader was hard at times," she said. "I'd be frustrated.
I'd want to show my emotions, but I couldn't." "I've always told
my grand kids to conduct themselves in a good way, because you never
know who is watching you," said Naida.
"I almost didn't play this year," said Lefthand. Lefthand lost
one of her biggest fans last year; her grandmother, Marian Andrew.
She said she knew she'd want her to keep on going so she
The tenacity on the court helped Lefthand in the classroom she
said. "It helped me to keep pushing forward in school."
"It's not about winning or losing, it's how you evolve as a
player and a person in life," said Oskie.
Lauren looks back on her high school career and says it was
very meaningful both her grandmother's were present, mom,
dad, siblings and extended family were her biggest drive to keep
Lefthand's plans to pursue a nursing degree at Salish Kootenai
College after graduation. Lauren's two aunts are in nursing and
she said caring for her grandmother when she was sick woke her up
to the career. The other hint to pursue a nursing degree came when
she recently helped with her cousin's labor. "I was the only one
to calm her down." The nurses said he should become nurse and that
she could handle it. Choosing her home tribal college allows her
to play for the SKC Lady Bison, an added bonus she said.
Lauren and her family are currently raising $6,000 to cover
the cost of the nine-day Australia Tournament package. Donation
sponsorship is handled through the International Down Under Sports
foundation. Any contribution donation will go into a drawing for
a trip for two to Australia and Hawaii and/or a subsequent drawing
for a 5-day cruise for two.
For more information contact Lauren Lefthand at (406) 260-8909.
About Down Under Sports
Down Under Sports was founded in February 1989 based upon the dream
of a New Zealander by the name of George O'Scanlon. George fell
in love with athletics, especially American football (gridiron)
as a young man growing up in his native country of New Zealand.
His desire over the years has been to promote gridiron, not only
to the people of New Zealand, but also to Australia where he lived
for many years. That is why George started the Down Under Bowl which
eventually led to the establishment of the Down Under Hoops Classic
and the Down Under International Games. The Down Under Sports programs
use the common language of sports to bridge the continents and provide
a forum for athletes from around the globe to compete head-to-head
in the sport they love. During the past twenty-seven years, Down
Under Sports has had the opportunity to share the land down under
with tens of thousands of individuals from across the United States.
Some prior standouts of the Down Under Bowl include Jake "The Snake"
Plummer (Denver Broncos), Ahman Green (Green Bay Packers), Rob Morris
(Indianapolis Colts), Dave Dixon (Minnesota Vikings) and Jesse Williams
"...To use the common language of sports to bridge the continents."
George O'Scanlon, Down Under Sports President