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Boogie Brozoski is a fierce competitor

Long Island Lutheran High School's Boogie Brozoski drives

Long Island Lutheran High School's Boogie Brozoski drives to the basket in the third quarter. (Jan. 8, 2012) Credit: James Escher

Boogie Brozoski introduces herself as Lauren.

She doesn't kick it off with the nickname everyone calls her by, even though it's the name that's been cheered from stands in gyms spanning from Long Island to Albany -- the same name teachers knew to use on the first day of school.

That comes later. Because if Boogie is fiercely competitive, vibrant and determined, the Lauren who introduces herself during girls basketball practice at Long Island Lutheran High School is poised, professional and easygoing.

The whole package? Well, that's what coach Rich Slater calls the fiercest, most driven kid he's ever known.

"I've coached her since fifth grade and she's been my leader," he said. "She's had the ball in her hands. I trust her. She welcomes the pressure, she welcomes the challenge . . . She says, 'Coach, I want the ball in my hands.' She's got great insight that you can't teach."

Brozoski helped lead her Crusaders to the 2011 state Federation Class B title as an eighth-grader. Returning again as the starting point guard, she is the engine to one of the best girls basketball teams on Long Island this season. Entering Saturday night's game against Eastside Patterson (N.J.), she was averaging 14.7 points, eight assists and two steals per game on a crew known as much for its airtight defense and pinpoint mechanics as its brutal schedule. She also maintains a 97 average.

She's 14 and a freshman, but "there is no age on the court," Brozoski said. "We all stick together and we just play hard."

It's certainly done wonders for the Crusaders, who Sunday face one of their biggest challenges in St. Anthony's, the other best team on Long Island.

Brozoski isn't balking. "It's going to be tough," she said. "But I think we'll play through . . . They're the team to beat and we have a target on our back from last year."

Slater says this particular brand of determination stems from her love of the game, something as apparent now as it was when she was 9.

That's how old Brozoski was when she tried out for Slater's Long Island Lightning AAU team, wearing a T-shirt with "Boogie" emblazoned on the back. She'd gotten it at a cousin's party -- a nod to her sometimes nickname, bequeathed by her father, Owen, when he noted that his little girl played a lot like his friend, a guy who went by "L Boogie.''

What Brozoski remembers from the practice: "All of a sudden, [Coach] called me Boogie and I was like, is he talking to me? . . . It kinda stuck from there."

What Slater remembers from the practice: "She did not stop playing. She did not stop shooting and playing. Practice was over, the tryout was over and she kept playing and I just fell in love with her, which is easy. Everyone does."

The spunk is still there, but it's been tempered by maturity and a greater understanding of the game, he said.

"This year, she's taking a step back," Slater said. "Physically, she's a great player, but now she understands when to make passes, when to take shots."

And Boogie can, well, boogie. She's an up-tempo player with quick feet and excellent ballhandling skills, which she demonstrates at will. In a drill in which players approach a defending coach and dribble around him, Brozoski adds flair -- the ball goes behind her back or through her legs as she dances around the obstacle with music in her step.

Appropriately, her idols are Notre Dame guard Skylar Diggins and singer Alicia Keys. When asked whom she'd rather meet, she declares the question too hard.

"I want to have both," she said. "I want to meet both of them."

She knows it's a cop-out, but who can blame her? For Boogie -- or Lauren -- the best of both worlds seems entirely within her grasp.

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