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High school notebook: Injuries in past, Hopkinton’s Auger bound for University of Pennsylvania

The goal was always to play Division I college basketball. That was the dream. But in the spring and summer of 2012, when Mike Auger nursed a shoulder that just couldn’t stay healthy and heard the whispers from programs that wouldn’t trust it, there were times when the dream felt more like fantasy than reality.

“It was tough,” the Hopkinton native and New Hampton School forward said. “The whole summer going into my junior year, which is when a lot of kids get the majority of their offers, I talked to coaches that were hesitant to offer me scholarships because of my history with injuries. There were times I was worried about it.”

The interest wasn’t there then, but it was a year later. After initially being recruited by the University of Pennsylvania late in the spring, Auger signed his acceptance letter a week ago to play for the Ivy League school starting this fall.

“I’m extremely confident,” said Auger, who said he’s not sure how much playing time he’ll get with the Quakers next year. “I’ve spent a lot of time with (eventual Penn teammates) already and I’ve talked to them all the time, and they seem like guys that I’ll get along with. I don’t see why it would be different on the court.”

There’s plenty for Penn to like in Auger, who’s averaging 5.1 points and 5.4 rebounds per game off the bench for the Huskies. The senior forward has size at 6-foot-7, can shoot as well as play inside, and, in what Auger labeled his most improved skill from his time at New Hampton and while playing for the Mass Rivals AAU team, he’s a versatile defender who can handle different positions.

“He has incredible athleticism, and is incredibly tough,” said New Hampton Coach Peter Hutchins, a former Kearsarge player and New London native. “I think he has the ability, with his skill set and style of play, in terms of his physicality, to have an impact in the Ivy League right away.”

Penn was the winner out of a collection of schools that pursued Auger, a group that included Boston University, UNH and Vermont and was narrowed down to Penn, Holy Cross and Dartmouth. The busy spring, summer and fall of weighing offers was a welcomed change from the year before, when interest was scarce due to red flags stemming from an injury history that dates back to November 2010, when Auger dislocated his shoulder and tore his labrum to wipe out his sophomore and final year at Hopkinton before it even began. He aggravated both injuries in April 2012 after his first year at New Hampton, requiring him to undergo the same surgery and rehab process.

“It was tough, especially doing it the second time,” he said. “It was easy for me the first time, it was just six months. … Doing it the second time, starting it over again, was definitely tough.”

Auger bounced back to play his junior year at New Hampton, but colleges were slow to come around.

“It made the process a lot tougher,” he said. “They wouldn’t tell me directly, but they’d tell my coaches and my assistant coaches … I was a liability, as far as my injury history.”

It was a discouraging moment, but after finishing that junior season with the Huskies, Auger saw there was a brighter ending in store.

“I couldn’t be happier with where I ended up,” he said. “It worked out.”

All in the family

In her first year at the helm of the Concord freshman girls’ basketball team, Lauren Daniels has the Crimson Tide playing well at 3-2. According to varsity Coach Mike Achilles, it’s one of the best starts the team has had recently, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise.

After all, Daniels knows basketball. With the role the sport plays in her family, basketball’s practically part of the DNA.

“It’s been huge. Basketball has been a huge part of all of our lives,” said Daniels, who played at Concord until graduating in 2004 and has had three other sisters play for the team. “Ever since I was little, my mom put me in basketball when I was 4 years old. … It’s definitely been a (big) part of our whole family.”

After Lauren graduated, sisters Allison (Class of 2006) and Christine (’07) played together on the team. Jillian (’12) was next, while Veronyca is a junior on the team now and Quinn, currently at Rundlett, is a hopeful Tide player-to-be.

The sport’s thread within the family doesn’t stop at Concord. Lauren went from Keene State to NHTI to Plymouth State, playing at each stop, while Allison and Christine went on to play at Norwich University in Vermont.

“It still carried on through college,” Lauren said. “My whole family would take trips and alternate whether they went to Plymouth State to watch me or my sisters.”

After graduating, Lauren landed assistant coaching jobs at Plymouth State and NHTI before getting a teaching job at Concord and being offered the freshman coaching position by Athletic Director Steve Mello. It’s a natural fit, given her background in the sport and with the school.

“My goal is just to teach these girls as much as I know,” said Lauren, who credited former Coach Dick Pratt with helping her develop her acumen. “I know the game very well. … I’m trying really hard to just teach them and have them understand the game of basketball, not just running up and down the court, but the reasoning behind why we do certain things.”

Games to watch

∎ Two of Division II’s top girls’ basketball teams meet when Pembroke (6-2) visits Souhegan (6-1) tonight at 6:30.

∎ The Coe-Brown boys’ basketball team (4-2) finishes off the school week with a trip to Kennett (5-1) Friday at 6:30.

∎ The Hopkinton boys’ basketball team (6-1) looks to stay hot on the road against a tough Mascoma team (4-2) Friday at 7.

∎ The Merrimack Valley girls’ basketball team (7-2) will try to topple Hanover (4-0) in a home game Friday at 6:30.

∎ The Bishop Brady girls’ basketball team (9-0) will head to Fall Mountain (6-1) Friday at 7.

(Drew Bonifant can be reached at 369-3340 or at abonifant@cmonitor.com or via Twitter @dbonifant.)

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