By Tom Robinson
Lauren Carra was a business major and established starter on the women’s basketball team at the University of Delaware when she decided to spend some time coaching in the Special Olympics prior to her junior year.
It turned out to be a life-changing decision for Carra, a former first-team, all-state selection while playing at Dunmore High School.
Carra switched majors on the way to becoming a special education teacher.
“That’s when I hoped and pledged that I wanted to be a special ed teacher, but I also wanted to coach,” said Carra, who is continuing her coaching this summer, leading a JB Hoops high school girls team.
Carra spent the last three seasons handling both tasks at Cape Henlopen High School in Lewes, Del. She recently resigned her position there.
For now, Carra’s coaching will be done at JB Hoops where she began contributing by splitting time between Dunmore and Delaware. That is just fine for Carra, who first came to Backcourt Hoops in Scranton on a volunteer basis last year before committing more time to the program and its top aspiring girls players this year.
“I knew I was going to be home for the summer and with the experience that I had down in Delaware, I was looking to see the game from a different perspective,” Carra said of her decision to contact Backcourt Hoops owner John Bucci early in 2017. “I wanted to see how it was in our area, how the kids were and the type of commitment.
“Coach Bucci responded back to me right away.”
Bucci said he would love her help and Carra was glad she took him up on the possibility.
Now, with a break in an already successful high school coaching career, she is enjoying working with dedicated players trying to further their careers.
“I like where I’m at right now with the AAU,” Carra said. “ … You get the kids who are all-in and fully committed to the game; the kids who really want to work.”
Carra was once one of those players, establishing her ability to perform under pressure by making major contributions to Dunmore’s District 2 Class 2A championship game win over top-seeded Montrose as a freshman. Carra won four district titles with the Lady Bucks, rising to first-team, all-state status in the district’s most consistently successful program, one that provides three players – Victoria Toomey, Gianna Delfino and Lisa Tallo – to her team at JB Hoops.
From there, Carra was a key supporter to All-American Elena Delle Donne while Delaware was climbing to its first NCAA Division I women’s basketball Sweet 16 berth in 2013.
Carra finished her career second to Delle Donne in school history in 3-pointers with 171, second in consecutive games played with 134 and 10th in career points with 1,275.
In her senior year, Delaware’s Sweet 16 team went 18-0 in the Colonial Athletic Association and 32-4 overall.
“I don’t think it could have been any better of a career and an experience for me,” said Carra, a 5-foot-9 guard. “Probably, the top moment that I take away from my experience at the University of Delaware was the night we won our second round NCAA Tournament game at home, with the support of our home fans and sealed our trip to the Sweet 16 over North Carolina.”
Following the 78-69 win over North Carolina, Carra had 10 points and 10 rebounds in her final college game, a 69-62 loss to Kentucky.
Carra was not, however, done with basketball.
After helping in youth programs, Carra began her high school coaching career just two years later.
At Cape Henlopen, Carra took a struggling program and led it to a winning record and two state tournament appearances in three years.
Carra is trying to further hone her skills as a coach at JB Hoops while helping players do the same for themselves.
“I think the kids who are here are here to get better and they’re here to win,” she said. “We’re not only helping them on the court, but we’re helping them off the court.
“Even if they’re not on the floor at the end of the game or the end of a win, they’re on the bench cheering their teammates on. They’re taking lessons away from all aspects of the game.”