Feb. 13, 2009
Michigan State forward Lauren Aitch grew up wearing the Green and White.
Her father played for the Spartans more than 40 years ago. She was raised in Lansing just a few miles from the Breslin Center and the East Lansing campus she has called home for four years.
"My dad wanted to stay in Lansing because he liked it there when he went to school," Aitch said. "It's a nice area for families to be raised and it has some big city to it."
Lauren was born Jan. 27, 1987. She spent her entire childhood in Lansing, Mich., and went to Waverly High School.
"My dad was patient with me," Aitch said. "I played a lot of different sports and my dad always told me he would teach me how to play basketball when I was ready."
She led her team to a Class A state championship in 2005, averaging 14.4 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. She finished fifth in the state's 2004 Miss Basketball voting.
"I had a lot of friends in the neighborhood," she added. "We played basketball all the time. It was nice being able to stay in the same place and make such good friends."
Lauren is a second generation Spartan. Her father, Matthew Aitch, lettered on the Michigan State basketball team twice (1965-67). The elder Aitch grew up in St. Louis, and came to East Lansing from Moberly Junior College in Moberly, Mo.
"Coach (John Benington) told me I would have a good chance of playing if I worked hard, so I worked hard," Matthew said upon his arrival to MSU.
"It was his rebounding strength that interested me most," said Benington. "His scoring from inside and out and his strong defensive play were surprising pluses."
He earned second-team All-Big Ten honors and team Most Valuable Player honors after the 1966-67 season, averaging 16.3 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. Matthew played professionally with the Indiana Pacers of the National Basketball Association (NBA) before returning to MSU as an assistant coach.
Lauren followed the same advice when she was recruited to play at Michigan State by then-head coach Joanne P. McCallie.
"I really liked Coach P," Lauren added. "My dad didn't want to push me one way or the other. He just helped answer questions. Michigan State was so close to home and it was the Big Ten--it was an easy decision."
Aitch averaged 2.6 points and 1.7 rebounds her freshman year while playing in 32 games.
Before the start of the 2006-07 season, Aitch tore her ACL.
"I was playing my best basketball at the time, so it was tough," she said. "I had never had a major injury like that. I had sprained an ankle, but never anything that severe."
She received a medical redshirt and sat out the entire season. While sidelined, Aitch gained a different perspective for the game.
"My sophomore season was tough, but the coaches did a great job of keeping me involved in the team even though I couldn't play," Aitch said. "(Assistant) Coach (Al) Brown kept me involved with little things like keeping stats. I learned basketball from a different viewpoint that year. It helped me a lot."
Change was on the horizon. Suzy Merchant took over as the new head coach when McCallie left to coach at Duke University as Aitch completed her rehabilitation. However, that was not the only challenge Aitch would face that year.
On April 4, 2007, Matthew A. Aitch Jr. passed away suddenly at the age of 62. Upon returning to the floor, Lauren changed her number from 5 to 45 as a tribute to her father.
"I wore his number in AAU basketball, in high school - all the time," she said. "Once the number was available after another player graduated, it was a blessing to be able to wear it in his honor."
Matthew Aitch's legacy lives on through his daughter. He would undoubtedly be proud of her success carrying on the Aitch name.
Please visit the Big Ten's Black History Month web site for additional features.