Hoops star returns to Fallon roots | NevadaAppeal.com
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Hoops star returns to Fallon roots

Steve Puterski
sputerski@lahontavalleynews.com
Former UConn star Paige Sauer, second from left, will take part in Saturday's Hometown Heroes event at Churchill County High School.
LVN File Photo | LVN

She stands above most, literally.

And on Saturday, Paige Sauer returns to her hometown to take part in the Hometown Heroes campaign at the Churchill County High School practice fields.

The day is filled with numerous activities celebrating a number of Fallon’s greatest athletes and Nevada’s 150th birthday. Gates open at 8 a.m. for the fun run, and the field starts about an hour or two later.

“I’m excited to see people I grew up with,” said Sauer, whose mother and twin brother still reside in Fallon. “Fallon needs this. It’s a great way to show kids you can have a dream and to dream big.”

Sauer is perhaps Fallon’s most decorated basketball player ever, although she suited up one year for the Greenwave. Throughout her childhood in Fallon, Sauer competed in numerous sports and was an avid swimmer.

But in seventh grade, one coach was the catalyst for basketball becoming Sauer’s passion. The late Deanna Deuerson brought drew out Sauer’s love for the game and soon after Sauer’s life would be consumed with hoops.

“Fallon was a perfect town to grow up in,” she said. “I had a coach who just totally touched my life. She told me I could make a dream of this and travel the world. She taught me the game the right way.”

Before entering high school, however, Sauer made perhaps the most difficult decision of her life. She left Fallon to move in with her godparents in Oklahoma to attend Carl Albert High School in Midwest City.

Her reasoning was simple, Nevada was not a hotbed for girls basketball, while Oklahoma was a place she could develop.

“It was a tough decision,” Sauer said. “I don’t think I got the most positive response from Fallon, but looking back, I don’t think there’s a person in Fallon who can say that wasn’t the right decision.

“It allowed me to play at one of the best universities for women and go play pro. It was a sacrifice and something that changed my life forever.”

As the years passed, Sauer grew to 6 feet, 5 inches and was recruited by the top college programs in the country. She was a McDonald’s All-American and won a state title her senior year in addition to being the class president.

In 1996, her decision came between powerhouses Connecticut and Tennessee. She signed with UConn and legendary coach Geno Auriemma.

At UConn, she earned her degree in psychology and captained the Huskies to the 2000 national championship. Soon after her collegiate season concluded, Sauer was selected 31st in the WNBA Draft and played for the Los Angeles Sparks and Cleveland Rockers in a four-year professional career.

“UConn was the best four years of my life,” she added. “It was also the toughest four years of my life. Winning a national championship my senior year was the best thing ever. I’m diehard UConn forever.”

While the WNBA season ran through the summer, she continued her professional career in Europe in the winter including stops in Spain, France, Hungary and South Korea.

“Playing pro and getting paid to play the sport you love was a great experience,” Sauer said. “Playing in Europe, I saw the world for free.”

After her pro career, Sauer went into coaching as an assistant at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley.

But the professional coaching bug didn’t hold, as Sauer felt it was time to get into “the real world.” She left Colorado and currently resides in Lansing, Mich.

There she found her second career with Xebec Realty as the general manager of two athletic complexes. While her college coaching career ended, she has found joy in coaching Lansing’s youth.

Life, for some, does come full circle.

Sauer coaches a seventh-grade girls team and looks forward to impact their lives as Dorsen did for her.

“When I was in seventh grade, I had a coach who touched my life forever,” she said. “If I can do that for one kid then I’m giving back to the sport that blessed me in so many ways.”