Laursen grew up on a farm in Royal, Iowa. "You don't understand the meaning of work until you get up at six a.m. in 20-degrees-below weather and feed 300 cows," says Laursen. Basketball was her release, and she excelled at it. She remembers losing a filling during a high school game. She packed the tooth with aspirin, held the aspirin in place with a wad of gum and scored 55 points.
After that, newspapers started calling her "poker-faced." She laughs at the memory, saying she was afraid to smile because the gum might pop out. "But to this day when I step onto the court, the mask of intensity goes on," she says.
Her day still begins at 6 a.m. and doesn't end until late at night, often leaving no time for other activities, like eating. Laursen has one meal a day. "I know it's stupid," she says. "But I'm careful to eat from the three food groups—canned, fast and frozen."
Team workouts reflect Laursen's intensity. Drills include what players call "dawn patrol"—early morning runs up the mountain trails around campus. "When I got here I thought she was crazy, working us as hard as she does," says Bridget Pettis, a freshman from East Chicago, Ind. "But that's what you have to do to be national champion."
Suzette Sargeant, a sophomore from Santa Ana, Calif., says Laursen is a real motivator. "I don't know how she does it, but she's always up," says Sargeant. "She could get us going at four in the morning."
Unlike some conference members, who recruit only within their county, Laursen can go after players from around the country. Last year's team had only three players from Arizona. Central also has a hefty scholarship budget. "Lin recruits like a bulldog, " says Young. "She refuses to give up on anyone."
The Vaqueras' reputation helps, too. Coaches of Division I programs often refer to Central those recruits who don't meet the academic standards of their schools or who need seasoning. Out-of-state recruits must adjust to more than Laursen's work ethic. August temperatures near Casa Grande can reach 112�. "When I first tried to run, it felt like I couldn't breathe," says Sharon Hargrove, a sophomore from Compton, Calif.
Last year Hargrove encountered something else she would never find in California. One night she was on campus, chatting with three friends when six javelinas appeared out of the darkness. The students froze, hoping the critters wouldn't notice them. But the javelinas spotted the students and charged, making snorting noises as they headed straight for them. "I had to jump over a brick wall to get away," says Hargrove. "This place takes some getting used to."
Even so, most players stick it out. Laursen is particularly proud of the number of players she has placed at four-year schools with basketball scholarships—52 since 1974. Last year a Central hoopster went to Duke, which had never taken a J.C. woman basketball transfer before. Three went to PAC-10 schools in 1986, two to Nebraska.
On her current squad, Laursen has seven freshmen, which isn't unusual. She says coaching at the J.C. level is like riding a treadmill. "Every year you have turnover. Every year you recruit, rebuild, reload," she says.