Women’s basketball: ‘High energy’ of UD coaches appealed to recruit from Massillon

Lauren Pallotta overcomes knee injury to earn chance to play at Dayton

Lauren Pallotta didn’t take long to make a decision once she received a scholarship offer from Tamika Williams-Jeter and the Dayton Flyers coaching staff.

Dayton first contacted Pallotta, a 5-10 senior guard/forward from Jackson High School in Massillon, toward the end of July. She committed on Aug. 5.

“I was on my way to another visit, and I got notifications on my phone and a couple of follow requests on Twitter and Instagram and a DM from coach Meek,” Pallotta said, “and she’s like, “Hey, can we give you a call real quick?’ I was like, ‘Of course.’ This was coming out of nowhere, but they hopped on the phone with me on Facetime and offered me on the spot. They were high energy, and I could tell I would really get along with them and I wanted to continue that relationship.”

Pallotta took an unofficial visit the next day and an official visit a week later. She committed during the second visit, becoming the first member of Dayton’s 2023 recruiting class. Riley Rismiller, a 6-foot-4 senior center at Coldwater High School, joined her in the class by committing to Dayton on Aug. 12.

Pallotta also visited Dayton in March when Jackson played in the Division I state semifinals at UD Arena. Her team lost 54-35 to Mason in its first final four appearance.

“It was awesome to make history for the school and get to that point,” she said. “It was a great arena to play in. The energy was awesome. Mason brought a lot of energy, but so did the Jackson fans. They drove 3½ hours to make an appearance at the game, which was really special. That gym just has a special thing going for it, and I’ve seen Dayton games on TV. They really like their basketball. The fans and everybody. is very committed to the basketball program.”

Pallotta averaged close to 14 points and 6 rebounds as a junior after missing most of the previous season. She tore the posterior cruciate ligament in her knee in the sixth game of her sophomore season.

“There was no surgery involved,” she said, “but it was pretty much nine months of straight physical therapy, and at the end of it, they weren’t really sure if I was ever going to be able to play at a high level again. It was kind of all up in the air.”

Doctors told Pallotta the PCL is a tricky part of the knee. It’s an uncommon injury in basketball. People who hurt it often do so in car accidents when their knee hits the dashboard. Pallotta suffered the injury when she got hit in the back and landed on her knee.

“The doctors from my area were unsure about the surgery,” she said. “You can’t completely repair a PCL, so I’d be playing at 75% If I got the surgery, but if I did physical therapy for nine months, it could potentially bring it back to almost being 100%. So we chose to go that route. It was a high-risk, high-reward situation. But we knew if I really focused on the physical therapy and focused on getting my knee better, I would hopefully be able to play again, and that was the case. I haven’t had any problems since the start of my junior year when I started playing again.”

The knee injury also cost Pallotta her sophomore season in lacrosse. She didn’t get to play her other favorite sport as a freshman in 2020 when the whole spring season was cancelled by the pandemic. She wasn’t even thinking about playing college lacrosse until this spring when she helped lead Jackson to the state semifinals, where it lost 10-7 to New Albany.

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Pallotta received a scholarship offer in lacrosse from Ohio State, so that made her think about what sport she wanted to play in college. Once she started playing AAU basketball this summer, though, she realized she would pick basketball.

“I’ve played (basketball) for as long as I can remember,” she said, “since my grandpa would take me to the local courts and play with me. I loved having that offer for lacrosse, but I knew in my heart that basketball was my passion.”

Buffalo, Ball State and Wright State were among the other schools recruiting Pallotta in basketball. She didn’t know what coaches would think of her after the knee injury.

“Wright State was my first offer out of my knee injury,” she saidd. “I really appreciated their support and their belief in me, and it was great to know that I was still wanted by college coaches.”

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