Even with all the rain this week, former Kansas women’s basketball guard Lauren Aldridge said she’s not getting pushed into puddles as she walks to class, finishing up the spring semester on Mount Oread.
It will be the final term in Lawrence for Aldridge, who led the Jayhawks in scoring and assists last season but announced March 28 that she would transfer to Missouri.
The Tigers made it official Thursday by formally announcing Aldridge’s signing.
“Nobody’s pushed me in any puddles,” Aldridge said with a laugh Thursday by phone. “I know it’s kind of a funky deal, but when I was in high school people gave me quite a bit of crap for picking Kansas in the first place. It’s not like this is anything new.”
Aldridge, a 5-foot-7 point guard from Marshfield (Mo.) High, started all 63 games during the last two seasons and led the Jayhawks with 11.1 points and 2.4 assists per game last season.
Aldridge, who also averaged 1.8 rebounds and 0.9 steals last season, will sit out the 2016-17 season and have two years of eligibility remaining after that.
“We are very excited to have Lauren join our basketball family,” Tigers coach Robin Pingeton said in a release from MU athletics. “She is going to be a great addition. Lauren is such a high-character young lady that embraces hard work. … She has a high basketball IQ, a motor and she is a fierce competitor.”
After talking it over with her family, Aldridge said the decision to leave Kansas was “a very prayerful decision.”
“I don’t really want to go into the specifics of it all, because I don’t feel like that would be appropriate for me to do,” said Aldridge, who helped start a Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter at KU. “But we just felt like now was the right time to go ahead and make the move with heading to Mizzou, which I am incredibly excited about.”
Kansas went 15-17 during Aldridge’s freshman season then dipped to 6-25 with an 0-18 record in Big 12 play during Brandon Schneider’s first season in 2015-16.
Aldridge said wins and losses weren’t a factor in her decision, but she acknowledged that the coaching transition after Bonnie Henrickson was fired last March was challenging.
“It was hard for everybody, but, for me, it was especially hard, because I had a really great relationship with Coach Bonnie,” Aldridge said. “She took her time with me and really helped me grow as a player. We worked well together, so it was heartbreaking to see her go.”
She believes a similar relationship is possible with Pingeton at Mizzou, which reached the NCAA Tournament this season for the first time in a decade.
“They are on the rise, but the thing that was most attractive to me about Mizzou was just their culture,” Aldridge said. “It really is just one big family. The success is attractive to any recruit, but it’s the culture that makes it so inviting.”
It reminded her of the Marshfield squad she led to a third-place finish at the Missouri Class 4 state tournament as a high school senior.
“I loved Kansas and I knew it was where I wanted to go,” she said. “I only had a handful of offers when I decided to come to Kansas just because I knew this was where I was supposed to be.”
Now, Aldridge, who committed to KU as a high school junior, is eager for a new opportunity at Mizzou.
She’ll spend next season learning from the Tigers’ current points guards, rising seniors Lindsey Cunningham and Lianna Doty, and hopes to be positioned to take over as the primary facilitator in 2017-18.
Aldridge — who played AAU basketball with Missouri forwards Cierra and Bri Porter for the Missouri Phenom was coached by her father, Steve — isn’t the first women’s basketball player to transfer from Kansas to Missouri.
Lawrence High grad Tania Jackson made the same move in August 2013.