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Reaching Milestones: Park grad Lurken is setting records at Kent State

Cottage Grove’s Larissa Lurken was honored by Kent State earlier this season for her milestones with the women’s basketball team. (Photo courtesy Kent State)

It has been a memorable senior season for Cottage Grove’s Larissa Lurken.

The Park High School graduate has already checked off multiple career and program milestones in a Kent State University women’s basketball season that is less than a month old.

She reached a personal milestone by scoring her 1,000th career point during an 84-42 Kent State loss to Baylor in Florida on Nov. 25. In the second round of the Gulf Coast Showcase on Nov. 26, Lurken continued her hot hand by breaking a few Kent State program records. She set the record for career three-pointers made, 161, and also scored 39 points in the 79-73 overtime loss to Western Kentucky University. Her 39 points rank as the fourth-most in a single game in program history.

While the personal highlights are nice, Lurken is the first to admit she has other motives for her senior season.

“Of course, it was a goal of mine and a dream of mine,” Lurken said about scoring her 1,000th career point. “And I’m so happy that I was able to accomplish that, but I’m not satisfied in just getting that. I’m ready to really turn this program around and start something new.”

Lurken is referring to goals for Kent State to make a step forward in development this season. The senior guard had experienced just 18 wins in her first three seasons with Kent State. The highest win total came with a 7-23 record in 2013-14.

But a 4-4 start this season has given Lurken optimism about Kent State’s development toward winning more games.

“That’s kind of how I wanted college to be,” Lurken said. “I wanted to go somewhere and be able to turn the program around. I knew it wasn’t a big program when I first came here, but I wanted to play.”

As a senior, she has been able to produce some of the best numbers of her career. Lurken has averaged 23.6 points per game through the first eight games of the season. If she can keep it up, the number would be much higher than the 13.9 points she averaged in 29 games last year.

She has attributed her work during the offseason for making her a more well-rounded player who can score in more ways than just at the three-point line.

“Even last year, people just thought of me as a shooter,” Lurken said. “And I wanted to become more dynamic in my game, both on the offensive end and defensive. I think being able to drive to the basket has allowed me to get better looks at my threes instead of just forcing shots.”

Lurken has plenty of people following her career from back home in Cottage Grove. Her fan base back home includes parents, Kerry and Stephanie, and Park girls’ basketball coach Stephanie Tolkinen.

Tolkinen watched Lurken develop into a standout player with the Wolfpack during her high school career. She is second all-time in Park history with 1,777 career points scored.

Tolkinen said Lurken’s development into a more all-around scorer has reminded her of a similar transition made in high school.

“As she developed and matured in high school, she actually almost changed that around,” Tolkinen said about Lurken’s reputation as a shooter. “She was sometimes driving more than she was taking that three ball. That’s kind of how she has developed at Kent State, as well.”

Lurken is a nursing major who is balancing a steep workload while playing Division 1 basketball. Right now she is doing 12-hour shifts for nursing school clinicals once a week in addition to her classwork and basketball practices.

She hopes to go to grad school and become a nurse practitioner when she is done at Kent State. Additionally, she is planning to move back to Minnesota.

“It’s been a great field that I’m in, and I have enjoyed all my experiences thus far,” Lurken said.

Lurken hopes to win a few more games with the Golden Flashes this season before she graduates and enters the world of medicine. To do so, she said they will need to learn how to win games with a lead.

“We’ve gotten off to a pretty good start so far,” Lurken said in response to a question about how Kent State can win more games. “I would say holding a lead when we have a lead, and not just being comfortable being up. Rather, staying aggressive and changing our mentality.”

Blaze Fugina

Blaze Fugina is the sports editor of the Woodbury and South Washington County Bulletin newspapers. Previously, Blaze worked as a sports editor for the Pierce County Herald and a sports reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls in May of 2011. You can follow Blaze on Twitter at @BlazeFugina.

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