Craig Sauers knew he would have to play a bigger role than ever before for the Laurel High boys basketball team this season.
With the graduation of 1,666-point scorer Mason Mraz, the Spartans are in need of scoring and leadership and Sauers is ready to provide both in his senior year.
In the opening games of the season, Sauers scored 11 and 12 points, respectively, including a game-winning 3-pointer to beat Wilmington on Sunday. His performances lifted Laurel to a 2-0 start and earned him Lawrence County Athlete of the Week honors presented by Washington Centre Physical Therapy and selected by the New Castle News sports staff.
“He’s playing a very big role in that,” Laurel coach Ken Locke said of replacing Mraz. “He’s been here for three years now and we’re expecting big things.”
At 6-foot-5, Sauers has molded himself into a versatile basketball player who can score both inside and out. That versatility makes him difficult for opponents to defend as he’s able to breeze by larger defenders and take smaller defenders into the post.
“Obviously when you have size and you can play and do multiple things, that’s just an extra dimension that we feel makes us difficult to match up with this year,” Locke said. “That creates some matchup problems, because you can’t really guard him with a four or five because he can play outside, and then if you try to guard him with a one or two, we can send him down low and post him up.”
Locke says that Sauers’ work ethic has pushed him to become the player he is now.
“He’s improved overall in every aspect,” Locke said. “Craig’s just a hard worker. He gets after it. He’s a good leader and he’s worked hard since eighth grade to just keep getting better and better. Some people just have natural ability, and while he has a little bit of that, he’s done it the tough way. He’s worked and earned everything that he’s gotten.”
Sauers said he thought his game-winning shot against the Greyhounds was a winner the moment it left his hands.
“When I released it felt good,” he said. “It was just one of those moments where you shoot it and think ‘this one’s the one that’s got to go in’ and it did.”
While the focus in the offseason was on getting bigger and stronger, Sauers says now he shifts his focus to team goals and the bigger picture.
“I’ve really worked to transfer from just a big player, to a big guard who is a more complete player,” he said. “Now I’m just focused on making playoffs. Obviously it didn’t work out last year, but playoffs is a really realistic goal for us and I think it’s one we can accomplish.”