Photo: Joel Venzke
New sounds echo in the Ron Buel Basketball Suite courtesy of first-year head coach Jennie Baranczyk. On Monday, two days after Baranczyk’s Drake debut, laughter and babble echoed courtesy of her son Elijah, who was born in May. A similar glee echoed after Friday’s 73-38 exhibition win over Quincy.
The Bulldogs finally tested their new leadership, newcomers and new system against the Division II Lady Hawks. After scrimmaging against fellow Bulldogs since April, the they finally played a new opponent beneath the Knapp Center’s spotlight.
“It’s a lot different when you’re playing in front of the spotlight — when you have fans cheering for you,” said sophomore guard Kyndal Clark.
That spotlight unnerved Clark before her first Drake game a year ago. As she watched the Bulldogs’ five newcomers battle nerves Friday, Clark remembered her own freshmen unease.
“One, it doesn’t seem like a year has gone by, and two, it’s crazy how much knowledge I have gained in this last year,” Clark said. “You know, I remember our first game just having that feeling of, ‘Is this really happening?’ It’s cool to be able to watch our freshmen come in and experience that and talk about it.”
The Bulldog newcomers overcame their jitters, though, to post several notable performances. Freshmen guards Dilonna Johnson and Ashley Bartow each added eight points. Junior guard Mary Pat contributed six.
Clark, Drake’s top returning scorer, led the team with 18 points on Friday. Under Drake’s new, fast-paced system, though, Clark expects to adjust her role with each new opponent.
“If that means it’s scoring for that night, then that’s what it is. If it’s not, then maybe it’s assists. Maybe it’s rebounds. Maybe it’s just energy,” Clark said. “I think this team will definitely have a lot of different scoring opportunities from different people on any given night.”
Baranczyk expects Drake’s new, versatile offense to baffle opponents despite its simplicity. Rebounding and communication top the Bulldogs’ to-do list under that new offense.
“There’s nothing super hidden or incredibly tough about it, but it’s really tough to guard if everyone’s on the same page,” Baranczyk said.
Though questions remain as Drake’s official campaign opens Sunday against South Dakota, the new system welcomes innovation, freedom and excitement.
“I think our system is a little bit different in that there’s a lot of freedom to show our creativity,” Baranczyk said.