At first blush, a 2.4-point scoring average with a rebound or two a game aren’t eye-popping numbers.
But for UC Davis forward Lauren Beyer, just being able to walk properly — let alone contribute on the basketball court — is a warm sports story.
It was November 2011 when the Elk Grove native went down in a heap during a win over visiting San Jose State.
The 6-foot-1 former Bradshaw Christian High standout was chasing down a rebound when she hit the floor awkwardly. The then-freshman’s right leg buckled.
The resulting injury was catastrophic.
Diagnosis: ACL, MCL and meniscus tears, a broken tibia that had struck her femur, causing further, upper-leg damage. Torn tendons in her ankle.
Singularly, any of the injuries would have sent her to the sidelines for a year.
Together, they might have folded the spirit of even the strongest woman.
No one was concerned about the McDonald’s Prep All-American nominee returning to basketball. The hope was she’d be up and around, just continue a normal life.
Fast forward to Nov. 26 In the fourth game of this season: there was UCD’s No. 11 — yes, that No. 11 — back on the court, a bulky, long black brace on her leg. Nonetheless she contributed 10 points in a 95-61 rout of those same SJS Spartans.
It’s been several surgeries and two years later, hundreds of days of rehabilitation and certainly more than 1,000 hours of physical therapy and training …
But Lauren Beyer has made it all the way back.
“I had no doubts that I’d return,” Beyer told The Enterprise this weekend. “My confidence was (often) low in trying to come back, sure. But I never had any doubts that I was going to return.”
Along the way, it helped that her good friend and roommate Sydnee Fipps was there to provide encouragement.
“Lauren is super-special on and off the court,” says Fipps, the Aggies’ leading scorer. “She’s worked so hard. With that injury, I know (most) people weren’t thinking she was going to come back.
“But she did. Lauren’s been an inspiration to all of us. We see her putting in all that work and we have to reward her … we have to play hard for her.”
And lately she’s been playing hard for her teammates.
In last month’s 84-78 loss to Sacramento State, Beyer kept the Aggies in the game with eight points, two blocks and two assists.
Her 19 minutes in that game was the most action she’s seen in her interrupted career — and UCD coach Jennifer Gross says the Remarkable Miss Beyer can now be a contributor as Big West Conference play starts Thursday at home against Cal State Northridge (7 p.m.).
“We’re getting quality time from Lauren,” Gross reported after the Sac State game. “She’s getting her timing back and is coming on.”
Gross continued …
“To have gone through what she has and still be so determined and positive is something. I have nothing but respect for Lauren and she is really helping the team.”
The spirit, work ethic and re-emerging talent of Beyer makes “our team very fortunate to have her back on the court,” Gross emphasized.
Despite the injury, Beyer has never ventured far from her Aggie sisters.
During rehab, she attended practices, often heading over to the ARC for rehabilitation sessions.
Then she was on the bench during games.
But it hurt not being in the fray. It hurt not being able to travel with the squad. It hurt getting that darn right leg back to playing status.
Fipps, says Beyer, was instrumental in helping her during the tough spots.
Fipps and Beyer came to campus together two years ago after playing AAU basketball for the NorCal Elite.
While at Yosemite (Mariposa) High, Fipps had suffered an ACL injury and knows all about extensive comeback campaigns.
“Sydnee has had quite a few injuries herself,” Beyer explains. “So we can relate. I could always ask her questions like ‘Hey, were you feeling this type of pain when you were going through rehab?’ ”
Beyer says Fipps would answer, “Yeah,” and then add “That I’d be OK, so I thought, ‘cool.’
“She helped pushed me through. She was always there for me and I’m always there for her.”
Beyer has “a lot of great people surrounding me.”
Dad Mark and mom Jani encouraged their daughter. After all, if anyone knew how determined and tough Lauren was, it would be her parents.
In her years at Bradshaw Christian (where Jani is now the principal), The Pride won four Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV basketball titles. Beyer also played soccer, where BCH won three SJS crowns.
Great teammates, her family (including little brother Kevin) and trainer Lisa Varnum, who Beyer says “spent every day with her,” encouraged, pushed and pulled for a full recovery.
“Lauren had one of the worst knee injuries I have seen in 25 years, including football,” Varnum told The Enterprise. “Initially, I don’t think about (her) coming back (to play) but getting her less pain and functional. Once we knew the extent of all of her injuries, I was sure I could lead her — and she committed to doing the work.
“She has worked harder in her two years just to play than most people realize. I have to admit, I smile a little extra every time I see her do well on the court. It’s why I do what I do.”
And there are handfuls of life lessons to be learned from Lauren’s long and winding road back to Hamilton Court.
“You’re going to have some hard times. I definitely had some breakdowns,” explains the personable exercise biology major. “But you have to surround yourself with good people and keep thinking positive thoughts like ‘I’m going to get through this. I’m going to push.’
“You have to think of the rewards and how great it’s going to be once you’re through it.”
Welcome back, Lauren.
Notes: Beyer’s dad is a correctional officer and 17-year-old brother Kevin plays three sports at Bradshaw. … “She’s doing a great job,” UCD assistant coach Joe Teramoto says of Beyer. “But even if she wasn’t doing a great job, just the fact that she’s back is really amazing. You can see the team is inspired by her being back — and playing well.” … Beyer is a junior in the classroom, but a sophomore on the court. She told The Enterprise she’ll continue with UCD basketball “as long as I can.” … The recent winter break has given the Aggies a chance to rest off the court: “Everybody is catching up with something,” Beyer says. “I’m really obsessed with ‘Gray’s Anatomy,’ Sydnee and (Kelsey) Harris are watching ‘Scandal’ and Celia (Marfone) likes to bake. When we get together as a group, we’ll be watching (TV) and Celia will be over there making banana bread.” … Beyer (elbow) missed the win over Simpson on Thursday, but should be ready for Thursday’s Big West opener.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at [email protected] or 530-320-4456.