Your Prep Sports
Haley Lorenzen left Iowa as the Gatorade Player of the Year at City High in 2014 and went to the University of Florida to continue her basketball career.
Women’s basketball is not the media darling that men’s basketball is, so Lorenzen seemed to disappear unless you made a concerted effort to follow her four seasons as a Gator.
But Lorenzen didn’t fall off the face of the earth.
She thrived at Florida, was a productive player for all four of her seasons, increasing her rebounding and scoring totals every single season, and played in all but two of her team’s games during the four years.
She started in 104 of Florida’s 120 games during her tenure, including all 30 her senior season when she averaged 12.3 points, 8.8 rebounds while playing 31 minutes per game.
She was in fact the face of the program in the SEC’s TV ad promoting its 2018 women’s tournament.
Despite the demands of Division I basketball, she earned a degree in Sports Management in three years and is working on a master’s degree in her fourth year at Florida.
Haley’s decision to accept Florida’s scholarship offer surprised some.
Her mother (Karen Napolitano Lorenzen) and father (Al Lorenzen) were both star athletes at the University of Iowa.
But Haley found something appealing in leaving the comfort of home.
“Honestly, for her, I thought it was probably the best decision,” Karen Lorenzen said. “Here, there’s always her dad and I. People know her.
“The first year was hard and I told her. You’re 18-years-old, and it feels like you’re a million miles from home. But she was able to find herself. And I’m not sure she goes through the same kind of journey if she was close to home.”
Haley confessed it was a little scary at first to be so far from her parents and friends. But her mother went through the same thing, moving from Long Island, N.Y., to Iowa City to play field hockey.
The distance was compounded by the culture shock. But it worked for Haley like it had for her mother.
“I think I have a better understanding of who I am as a person,” Haley said. “You try to find yourself when you go to college. You have to think for yourself. You can discover new things and figure out what you like and try things. Sometimes they don’t always work out, but you live and learn. It’s kind of a trial period. You’re trying to figure out what kind of person you want to be.”
She went to Florida as an interior design major but for a variety of reasons changed to sport management.
Her open personality and ease in meeting new people has made it a good fit. Let’s face it, as a child she used to walk up to strangers in the grocery store and strike up conversations.
“I’ve taken a real interest in being able to work with athletes and with people in general,” she said. “So, if there’s some way for me to give back and help them grow as people like some of the staff here has helped me I think that would be a tremendous opportunity for me. I’ve been able to work with great people here who have values very similar to mine.”
Her commitment to the program and to herself led her to stay in Florida every summer and go through workouts while attending classes.
“It’s been a few years since I’ve been home, but I can’t say I miss the snow,” she said.
Her sophomore year the team finished 22-9.
“Her sophomore year they were so good,” Karen said. “They were 16th in the country, and she really thought that was going to be the catapult to the next two years, and she was excited about that. But then a lot of things got derailed.”
Key injuries and transfers led to a 15-16 season and the coach was fired.
At that point Haley had her degree and could have elected to transfer for her final season without having to sit out a year.
“I’m committed to these girls that are on my team,” she said. “I truly appreciate them. They are like sisters to me. These are going to be my friends for life.
“Of course during the stressful moments the thought has to cross your mind (to transfer), but my orange-and-blue blood held true because I love this place, and I would never think about leaving these girls and leaving my team and all the friends I have at the University of Florida.”
Her senior year the team struggled. Only nine players dressed and several were freshmen.
The team finished 11-19 but was largely competitive in most of its games in the powerful SEC. Haley was one of three seniors and undertook a slightly different role.
“She’s kid who’s always going to pick everybody up, but she’s learned when to call somebody out,” Karen said. “When she left Iowa City that was not in her bag of tricks.
“She gets that there’s a way to do it. She accepted that she needed to do that, which was outside of her comfort zone. That we needed her and the other seniors to kind of be the voices because we had a new staff, and kids don’t always trust the new staff right away.”
Haley said the new coaching staff wasn’t necessarily the driving force behind her acceptance of additional responsibility.
“It was just the right thing to do to step up into a leadership role and give as much as I can to my team,” she said.
Haley Lorenzen scored 1,214 points and had 730 rebounds during her career. She was productive and durable in the best women’s basketball conference in the country.
She has been invited to the invitational league that the WNBA draft combine runs.
She could continue her career here or overseas or she can finish her master’s and enter the working world. She has options, and she’s going to consider all of them.
But what we would discover upon meeting up with Lorenzen after four years away is probably more precious to her than any one of those statistical milestones.
“They’d find a kid who is very comfortable in her own skin,” Karen said.