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Lauren Ware

Century's Lauren Ware, left, is guarded by Mandan's Lauren Gangl during a game earlier this season. Ware is being recruited by many of the top NCAA Division I programs in the country.

Lindsay Whalen is a five-time WNBA All-Star, four-time WNBA champion, two-time Olympic gold medalist, three-time college All-American and the current head coach of a top 10 women's D-I basketball program.

But on Tuesday, Whalen was seated in the front row at the Bismarck Event Center watching high school girls basketball, and taking camera-phone photos with fans.

That's the kind of attention Century star Lauren Ware is attracting on the court.

Whalen wasn't alone on Tuesday, however. Also in attendance was Iowa associate head coach Jan Jensen with Ware the center of attention.

Ranked as the 38th-best high school prospect in the class of 2020 by ESPN.com, Ware is taking it all in stride.

"It's amazing to know that all the coaches want to come here and watch me play," she said. "They're coming here to watch me knowing already what I'm capable of, so I'm just trying to play my game and do what's best for our team.

"I don't want to it to take away from our team or what we're trying to accomplish."

Ware and the Patriots are 6-0 and ranked No. 1 in the state. Already a two-time all-state selection in basketball and volleyball, the versatile 6-foot-5 Ware is averaging 17 points, 8.8 rebounds and 3.4 blocks per game. Her 18-point performance against Bismarck High on Tuesday featured a 3-pointer from nearly the cheap seats.

“I heard somebody say, ‘Shoot it.’ I looked up at the clock and I kind of lost (the ball), so I dribbled and just shot it,” she said of the near 30-footer. “I thought it was going to be an air ball but it ended up going in.”

Ware is still is in the process of sorting things out. She's unsure of when she'll make a decision on where she plans to play.

"I've kind of narrowed it down, but I still have visits to take and stuff," she said.

Ware made a trip to Minneapolis this fall where Whalen, head coach of the Gophers, has the University of Minnesota ranked 13th in the country and 10-0 in her first season in charge at her alma mater.

Iowa currently has a North Dakotan in the starting lineup in Minot Ryan's Hannah Stewart, a senior.

Coaches from Oregon and Oregon State are expected to be attendance for Century's next game, Friday at 6 p.m. against Jamestown. Currently, Oregon is ranked No. 7 in the country with Oregon State ranked 11th.

Ware is up for anything geographically.

"Distance isn't a problem for me," she said. "Really, anywhere is a possibility."

The increased attention comes with the territory for Ware and the Patriots, who have two Division I players. Senior Lily Keplin is headed to Grand Forks to play for UND next season.

"Every year the target gets bigger and bigger," Ware said. "We understand teams are going to play us harder than anybody else."

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Reach Tribune sports editor Dave Selvig at (701) 250-8246 or david.selvig@bismarcktribune.com

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