Lauren Zaniboni is tall.
"Oh, you must play basketball," classmates and casual acquaintances say to the 6-foot-2-inch San Diego native. But when the sophomore marketing communication major transferred to Emerson after her freshman year at North Carolina State University, she hadn't played the game in over a year.
Born in Natick, Mass. and raised in Southern California, Zaniboni was not enjoying her first year in North Carolina and decided to pursue her academics-and athletics-elsewhere.
"I actually applied to like 10 different schools, and I thought it would be really hard to transfer. But Emerson was my first choice," she said. "The South was a very different place [.] I wanted to get out of the middle of nowhere, and Boston is such a great place."
With her mother's side of the family living nearby, she appreciates the fact that her cousins, aunts and uncles can come to the games and cheer her on.
"[North Carolina] was kind of in the middle of nowhere, so it was hard for my family to come visit," she said.
"Believe it or not, I was actually a really big soccer player competitively since I was really little," Zaniboni said. She did not start playing either one of the two sports she has shined in at Emerson until her freshman year of high school.
At Division I N.C. State, Zaniboni played volleyball during her freshman year, and immediately picked up where she left off by joining the women's volleyball team at Emerson.
Although her height and four years of high school hoops made her seem an obvious candidate to play center for the basketball team, she wasn't jumping on that idea right away.
"I wasn't sure at the time, if I was going to play basketball or not," she said. "I went back and forth a lot."
Women's basketball Head Coach Bill Gould is glad that Zaniboni weighed her options and decided to give basketball at Emerson a shot.
"I think one of the things that intrigued her about Division III was the opportunity to play both [sports]," he said. "I think she missed playing [basketball] and obviously at North Carolina she couldn't do that. It's harder at Division I and even at Division II schools to play two sports when one is a winter sport."
In the lower-pressure atmosphere of Division III athletics, Zaniboni was able to participate in both, despite the fact that the two seasons overlapped.
"There was a period of time for like three to four weeks when I was doing both and it was kind of hard," she said. "There were times when I had to skip basketball, because volleyball was my top priority at the time. I tried to make as many practices as I could and still do my homework."
Zaniboni said the transition has been smooth, and it seems her lack of time on the court over the past two years has not done too much damage to her game.
"She has a lot of room for improvement, but she's obviously doing fine," Gould said of her team-leading 11.5 rebounds-per-game and 14.3 points-per-game so far this season. "She hasn't played competitive basketball in 18 months. A lot of things like timing, fundamental skill things, they're going to be a little off."
This past weekend, the women's basketball team traveled to Washington, D.C. to compete in the Gallaudet University Invitational Tournament, winning games against Penn State Berks and Gallaudet University. Zaniboni racked up 13 points and nine rebounds in her ten minutes of the final game and was named to the All-Tournament Team along with senior guard Bri Papa.
The trip to D.C. combined basketball games with sightseeing and bonding with her teammates, and she said the outing was one of the best memories of her career so far. Gould applauded her performance in the tournament, and recognizes her value to the Lions.
"She's coordinated, she knows how to move," he said. "You generally don't find almost 6'3" kids who have that kind of skill set."
With three All-Tournament Team selections and team-leading numbers both offensively and defensively, Zaniboni has a lot to look forward to with two more years still ahead of her. She plans on sticking with her teams throughout her tenure at Emerson, but doesn't see herself pursuing athletics after she graduates.
"Honestly, I really just play because I love it," she said. "I mean I'm not going to pursue athletics after college. Obviously I want to try to do well but I don't really have set goals out. I am here to learn. I learn here obviously in the classroom, but the coaches, especially Coach Gould, make us better players and make us better people as well. I just want to, I guess, become a better person."