first_imgThere have been individual honors as well. Maddy and Becca were named to the MVC’s all-freshman team and Maddy was the freshman of the year. She also was first-team all-conference that season and was the conference tournament MVP in 2018. Sammie has been the league’s defensive player of the year, a first-team all-conference selection and a two-time member of the all-defensive team. Nicole has been a steady contributor off the bench with her speed and 3-point shooting and is Drake’s recipient this year of the State Farm MVC Good Neighbor Award, which honors athletes across all sports for their community service. Becca earned her teammates’ respect from the start with her play on the floor. Her resiliency through adversity has only heightened their regard for her. Special AND successful. It was Maddy, screaming that no one could stop her. They’ve had an unofficial pact this season that they never tell one another no. If someone wants to do something, they all do it. Their time together is running out so they want to share everything. They arrived at Drake as four strangers from four different states. They’ll leave as friends forever, bound by the laughter, the tears, the joy, the heartbreak, the work and the fun that makes college basketball such an unforgettable, and in many cases, life-altering, experience.All four signed on when the thought of Drake winning championships in women’s basketball was just that — a thought, a vision, a dream. It was that way for Maddy Dean and Becca Jonas in 2013 and the same for Sammie Bachrodt and Nicole Miller a year later.They’re in the same class now after knee injuries forced Maddy and Becca to take redshirt seasons, and they’ve helped lay the foundation for a program that has turned those hopes and dreams, that vision Coach Jennie Baranczyk laid out for them, into actual championships and trophies.  Sammie and Nicole have lived together since they were freshmen, two years in the dorms and two in a house, which they share with teammate Sara Rhine. Maddy and Becca share a house with Kierra Collier, who is sitting out this season after transferring from Washington, and two softball players. Jennie will take away memories of this class as well, of how they took a chance with a program that had not yet arrived, how they bought into the culture she tried to establish and how they nurtured that culture when younger players arrived. When Maddy and Becca signed, Jennie had been in the job for only a year and Drake was coming off an 11-20 season that produced just five league wins. Now, as the careers of the four seniors near an end, Drake is the best program in the league and a top 25 program nationally. It’s class that’s shown nothing but class throughout. Four different skill sets, four different personalities. Yet when they’re not playing, all they want to do is spend time with each other. “It was at the end of summer, right before the year started,” Becca said. “It was kind of poetic. We’re going to go into this year together.” “We had a successful first year and then having to sit out that next one was hard,” Becca said. “But I said from the beginning, God’s taken me out of this year and that means He’s planning something special. So far it has been. I can’t imagine being done right now. It kind of worked out perfectly, as it always does.” She’s right. Sit down with them for a while and there’s never a moment they’re not smiling. Maddy, too, had to sit for a year, missing 2016-17 because of a torn ACL. “Seeing her constantly overcome hurdles and just her strength throughout everything is just incredible,” Nicole said. “I don’t know how she’s done it. Seeing her go through that yet still continue to love the game and love the people around her is just awesome. She wants to go into coaching and she’s going to be an amazing coach.” “So I turned and scored.” “I think that game made a really big statement for us and kind of showed us we are really good and we can beat these teams,” Sammie said. “It was great to have that validation. That was kind of a breath of fresh air because we had been working for that for so long.” “I know Jennie has challenged both of us when we sat. You’re still a part of this team. You still have an obligation to bring whatever it is you can. Just having that focus of the bigger picture, like we’re part of something that’s really big.” So yes, they undeniably are winners as players. And when you spend a little time with them, you find they’re winners as people, too. They are Drake’s seniors and this is their story, a story that’s not quite finished, one they hope contains a few more chapters. “You don’t have the culture we have if our players didn’t take hold of it a long time ago and if they didn’t take leadership of it a long time ago,” Jennie said. “If that class didn’t come in understanding that that’s THE most important thing, there’s no way we’re having the success were having — or any success at all.” Maddy laughs when she thinks about the two-week break they get to go home between summer workouts and the start of the fall semester. Maddy plays with a bit of an edge to her game and is fearless. She’ll take any kind of shot, from any distance, any angle, at any point in the game. Becca’s road has been the most challenging of the four. After a standout freshman season in 2014-15, she missed all of the next season because of a knee injury, and knee problems have dogged her this season, keeping her out of 14 games and limiting her time in the others. So she finds other ways to help, something she learned while sitting out what would have been her sophomore season. “They’re both just bundles of joy and energy,” Maddy said. “They’re literally so great I don’t even have words to describe them. They make the game fun.” That tough exterior melts off the floor, when Maddy becomes, as Sammie puts it, “just this little ball of energy, this little bubbly, hilarious, awesome, really joyful person.” “They both walk into a room and have the biggest smiles,” she said. “They bring life to any situation.” For Sammie, just standing on the Knapp Center court and looking at the crowd at the beginning of a game is as special as anything else she could be doing. And to be doing it with your best friends — that’s something to cherish.center_img The four will make their last regular-season appearances at home this week, against Illinois State on Thursday and Bradley on Saturday. Win one and the Bulldogs clinch at least a tie for another championship. Win both and the title is all theirs. They enjoyed some big moments earlier this season when they knocked off two nationally prominent programs, Rutgers and South Carolina, at a tournament in Vancouver. South Carolina is only two years removed from winning the national championship. BECCA JONAS   Hometown: Independence, Missouri   Signed with Drake: November 2013   Height: 6-2   Major: Graduated in digital media productions, working on masters in communications   What’s next: Become a college coach   Becca says: “Our freshman year, we didn’t even know what we were doing. We didn’t realize that starting 9-0 (in the conference) had never been done. We were just in it and playing games. And that’s carried over through all of our years. When you’re in it, you’re just playing basketball and competing, just trying to get better every day. It’s when you look back, oh, cool.”   Jennie on Becca: “She really believes in this team and she wants to do whatever she can. If stepping on the floor is what she can do and we need her to do that, she’s going to do that. And if it’s not, then she won’t. But she still is completely invested in everything that’s going on. Is it hard? Yeah, but there’s a bigger picture in sight. She still makes an incredible impact.” She’s also someone you can count on to be there for you. Maddy once sat with Sammie for three hours at the Sprint store when Sammie had to get a new phone, patiently waiting while her teammate took care of her business. Now that is friendship. As difficult as it’s been, neither can imagine not being a part of this team. If they had not been injured, this season would not have been possible. “We literally spend 11 months on top of each other every day,” she said, “and after two days at home, ‘Hey, we miss you? Can we come hang out?'” “That’s one thing I will never take for granted,” she said, “that when I came to Drake, I played college basketball and I had a blast.” They’ve helped the Bulldogs win two regular-season Missouri Valley Conference championships and two tournament titles, and they could win one more of each this season. During their time in a Drake uniform, the Bulldogs reeled off a 47-game MVC regular-season winning streak, ended a five-game losing streak to Iowa State and broke a 14-game skid to Iowa. They’ve won at least 20 games every season and played in a postseason tournament every year. She also remembers the time during a game in the MVC tournament when she got the ball in the low post and didn’t do anything with it right away. Then she heard this voice from the bench: “Becca! Score!”  Among the four, it’s a mutual admiration society. Becca, for example, describes Sammie and Nicole as “human glow sticks.” “It’s a blessing in disguise,” Maddy said. “At the time you don’t realize it and it was the hardest thing to go through. I think looking back, all the things it’s done for our education, our team and just being able to be part of this for another year is really special.” With all that’s happened, there’s been much to remember and celebrate. The first MVC tournament championship was one such moment, accomplished with an overtime victory over Northern Iowa. A year later, the Bulldogs beat the Panthers again in the title game. “I don’t know why,” Becca said, “but I never laughed harder than on that 20-minute ride, there and back, just laughing.” Both bring that energy to the court. Nicole has put up consistent numbers throughout her career as a spark off the bench. That started in her very first game, when she scored 13 points and sank four clinching free throws in Drake’s first victory over Iowa State since 2009. Sammie can do a little bit of everything — pass, hit the 3, drive to the basket, rebound and defend. Turn her loose on the floor and she’s relentless. “The way they have taken this year, I think they do an amazing job of leading by example,” Jennie said. “They cover for each other, they challenge each other, they build each other up. And they really have high expectations, not only for themselves individually but as a class, for us as coaches and for the rest of their teammates. They’re just a really special class.” And maybe the best part of all, they’re not done yet.MADDY DEAN   Hometown: Jordan, Minnesota   Signed with Drake: November 2013   Height: 5-9   Major: Graduated in finance and accounting, working on MBA   What’s next: Play basketball overseas   Maddy says: “To help lay the foundation for the rest of the program and to see what Jennie’s done here is really incredible. I’m just lucky and thankful to be a part of it. And I can’t wait to see what the future has for the Bulldogs.”   Jennie on Maddy: “She’s literally one of the toughest players I’ve ever been around. She tore her ACL her sophomore year and she played three more games. We didn’t even know it was torn. You could see early she was going to be able to come in and do some really big things. She had it. If you watch her in front of the whole team, she’s just awesome. She can be completely the life of the party and she could be the one you need to have a one-on-one conversation with.” “It’s definitely hard and not fun, but it’s part of the game,” Becca said. “I’m just thankful for how I was able to make it through. My family, my coaches and my teammates constantly were there for support, just making it always feel like you have value. With the extra year in school, Maddy is getting her MBA and Becca is finishing a master’s degree in communication. The little things make great memories, too — the bus rides, sharing a meal together, watching a favorite TV show. During the team’s trip to Italy in the summer of 2016, most of the players took a short bus trip into Switzerland, mainly so they could say they were in Switzerland. SAMMIE BACHRODT   Hometown: Wichita, Kansas   Signed with Drake: November 2014   Height: 5-10   Major: Finance   What’s next: Become a college coach   Sammie says: “Everyone’s love for the game has expanded on this team. You grow up with each other. Playing with Nicole has made me love the game so much more because she brings things out of me that I didn’t even know I had. I can go through everybody on the team. The same thing with the staff. They pull love out that you didn’t even know you had.”   Jennie on Sammie: “Sam’s just relentless. And she’s the same in her personality. She’s just a shining light. She’s fun, she’s fun loving, she’s a super extrovert. She wants to be around people all the time. You can’t help but just really like her. She plays like that. She can compete and have a smile on her face at the same time, like she’s just got this electricity to her.”NICOLE MILLER   Hometown: Walker, Iowa   Signed with Drake: November 2014   Height: 5-9   Major: Health sciences   What’s next: Become a physician’s assistant   Nicole says: “The relationships I’ve created with the women on all four of my teams (at Drake), everyone’s so different but we just find a way to be so close and make it work. It’s just such genuine love. It just makes me smile. We talk about that — be super athletic, be super genuine, be real and we are. That has made this experience even more worthwhile.”   Jennie on Nicole: “Nicole is just as blue collar as you can get. She knows how to work and she can go forever. And she’s a delight as a teammate, as a person. One of the things I think is so special about Nicole, anytime you would see her play (in high school), every little girl you saw in their community had a Nicole Miller something. It wasn’t just because she’s a good basketball player. There’s a lot of good athletes that come out of a small community, but they don’t have that kind of impact.” “I couldn’t think of a more perfect senior class,” Nicole said. “We’re all best friends. We’ve gotten so close over the years. Gosh, I’m just so thankful for them. We’re all so different, but we all bring so many different things and it all meshes together just perfect.” “Just the feeling I have in that championship moment, it’s an unmatched feeling,” Maddy said. “The way we’ve done it is the coolest part, which is team basketball, bringing that love of Drake, that love of competing, loving basketball,” Becca said. “Giving that back to (Jennie) as well as to this program and all the teammates we’ve had is the best part. We knew we were going to do it and now when you’re in reflection mode in your last year, OK, it’s pretty cool. We’ve done some cool things.” “She has ice in her veins. She can do things that no one else can do,” Sammie said. “She’ll take shots where I’ll go, ‘What are you doing?’ And then they’ll go in and she’ll run back with a little smirk on her face like, ha, ha. I just have a blast being on the floor and playing with her.” Last summer, they took a “senior trip” to Cape Cod, where Becca’s parents have a house. All four went, along with Paige Greiner, who graduated last year.  Print Friendly Versionlast_img read more