Lauren Charlton is certainly no stranger to basketball. The Penn freshman guard has been playing since the age of five alongside her competitive family, and now she’s bringing her skills to the Quakers.
Before arriving at Penn, Charlton played alongside her siblings in youth leagues and throughout high school. Despite injuring both her shoulders — once in sophomore year and again in senior year — and having to take extensive leave to recover from the surgeries, the new addition to the women’s basketball team persisted and racked up numerous accolades. Additionally, Charlton managed to score exactly 1,000 points over the course of her time at Dallas High School.
The Shavertown, Pa. native began playing basketball early on at home with her family and remembers her younger years fondly.
“I have been playing basketball ever since I was five," Charlton said. "I used to play in the little kiddie leagues. My mom was always my coach and my mentor, and she pushed me to be my best. My whole entire family plays.”
Since joining the Quakers, Charlton has found a new family among her teammates.
“Throughout my high school career and growing up, I’ve been introduced to a lot of new teams where I had to build those connections very quickly and develop that chemistry," Charlton said. "This has definitely been the easiest experience with it. These girls are so welcoming, and I honestly look at them like my sisters already."
Charlton knew from the moment she visited that Penn was where she wanted to spend her college basketball career.
“I have been drawn to Penn since I did my first summer camp here," she said. “Basically, everything about Penn, I loved the second that I saw it — I just knew from the second that I saw it that I wanted to be here.”
The hopeful health and societies major relies on more than just her technical skills to succeed. One thing that makes her successful is her ability to be a team player. Charlton's high school coach, Kelly Johnson, remembers being well aware of her skill even before she joined the high school team.
“I was very familiar with her from a young age," Johnson said. "We saw the potential early on, and we were very excited to welcome her to our program.”
Reflecting on Lauren as a player during her high school years, Johnson said, “Lauren’s a very well-rounded player. She’s very versatile; she served a number of roles when she played in our high school program. She was very willing to do whatever she needed to do to make our team successful. It’s clear that she puts her team first, so she was a very special player to have in our program.”
Penn's coach Mike McLaughlin has noticed similar traits in the few practices that he has had a chance to share with Charlton.
“The good thing about Lauren is that her eyes are wide open to learn," McLaughlin said. "The transition from high school to college is difficult enough, let alone under these circumstances. I’ve been really encouraged by her being very coachable. She’s a great teammate.”
Charlton's path to basketball stardom didn't happen overnight. Her mom and former coach, Lynne Charlton, is proud of the way that she has grown over her career and the skills that she has developed.
“Lauren’s been the kid that never wanted attention,” Lynne Charlton said. “There’s no way you can’t really be out there, when you’re the biggest girl on the court and you’re scoring. I think it gave her a lot of confidence just as a person.”
In relation to her skills, Lynne Charlton added, “She’s always been an unselfish player. That’s probably the best thing about her, and she’s always had great court vision. Despite her size, she saw everybody, and she would always lift everyone up around and I think that’s what I’m most proud of her about.”
Throughout her development as a basketball player, Lauren Charlton has found inspiration in her younger sister.
“My sister — they call her 'The Big Nasty' — she is so aggressive, and she’s all over the place diving for balls," Charlton said. "And that’s something that makes a basketball player — you have to want it, and have that drive and aggression. That’s something I think about when I’m on the court.”
When reflecting on what she hopes to gain from her basketball career at Penn, Charlton wants to focus on making memories.
“Being with all of the upperclassmen, I’ve heard them speak so highly of their experience here and the coaching staff and all of the things that they’ve been through," she said. “They all just have so much to look back on, and so many amazing memories that they’ve made, like winning the championship. I just want to be able to make those memories too and have something to reflect back on in a few years.”