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Drake freshmen supply energy, optimism

Photo courtesy of Drake Athletics

When freshmen Emma Donahue, Ashley Bartow, Alexis Eckles and Dilonna Johnson arrived in August, doubts loomed over Drake. The new Bulldogs faced a new system under new leadership without 2011-12 Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year Rachael Hackbarth.

Optimism replaced doubt, though, thanks to Drake’s new, teamwork-oriented outlook. Though the four freshmen have yet to master every in and out of Division I play, they expect Drake’s optimism to generate growth. The Times-Delphic sat down with Donahue, Eckles and Bartow to discuss their Division I transition, comeback mentality and MVC expectations.

Times-Delphic: What has been the toughest part of your transition from prep competition to Division I competition?

Emma Donahue: The season has been about just a lot more. It’s faster, and you just have to adjust to that, and you have to adjust to everything happening around you. So, it’s just more.

Alexis Eckles: The caliber of players that you’re going up against. A lot of people that you play in high school, you have a couple good teams and the rest of the teams are at a lower level, but it’s a level where everyone is as good as you or better. It’s very competitive.

Ashley Bartow: I would just say it’s the pace of the game. It’s so much faster than high school. We thought varsity high school was pretty fast, but it’s a lot faster. It’s a lot more physical, so that’s been a change.

TD: What has been rewarding about developing the new, up-tempo system as a team?

ED: We have more chances to cheer each other on. As soon as we get a good play, we have another chance to get another one, to keep it rolling and stay motivated.

AE: I would say getting all these different combinations of players, seeing who meshes well with each other on the floor. Just knowing I can pass the ball to this person, or I can rely on this person to make shots, just knowing the flow of the game and putting trust in the unit on the floor.

AB: We have so many more options.

TD: Six points or fewer have decided all but one of your losses, so how do you move past difficult defeats to focus on the next opponent?

ED: We’ve just got to figure out what we’re doing wrong and figure out our shots, our layups and our free throws. The little things that make a big difference.

AE: Our coach really looks forward and not so much on worrying about the past games. It’s finding new ways to get better from each game. How can we better from this game? What can we take from this game to add to the next game?

AB: It shows that every free throw matters. If we would have made all our free throws or had that extra rebound, that’s a game-changer.

TD: As an individual, what kind of energy do you strive to bring to the team?

ED: I hope to bring positive energy and just do my best when I’m called. Just do what I can to help my team.

AE: I would hope to bring a lot of energy to the team whether that be in the game, making the hustle play. Our coaches talk a lot about fueling each other’s tanks, so making sure you’re always being some sort of inspiration to somebody.

AB: Being able to fill somebody else’s tank means telling teammates, “You’ve got this.” It’s pumping up the team.

TD: As a freshman class, what can Drake fans expect from the four of you?

ED: I think we’re going to be a strong class. We just have to work on finding ourselves, I think. We need to figure out how we fit as a team. I think we’re going to do good things and be an asset to the program.

AE: I would have to say growth, seeing as we’re just diving into the program. We’re new, we’re getting our feet wet. You’ll see a lot of growth, whether it be on the court, off the court, encouraging each other, whether it be in the game or in our classes.

AB: We have four years left together, so I think you’ll see us improve a lot.

TD: What has been your favorite moment of the 2012-13 season so far?

ED: I would say team bonding.

AE: I think it has been being able to play and get to know wonderful people outside of basketball, growing as a family, becoming one unit. That has been my favorite thing.

AB: Getting to know everyone. We have a new coaching staff, so getting those relationship opportunities.

TD: What can fans expect from your team when MVC play opens in January?

ED: I think we’ll be ready.

AE: I would have to say, simply expect us to compete.

AB: I think, right now, we’re still trying to find ourselves as a team and come together as a team. I think by the time conference comes around, I think we’ll be a lot better at playing together. It’s exciting. I think we can really do some damage in conference if we figure it out.

TD: What’s the best part of being a member of the Drake women’s basketball team?

ED: We’re all really close. We all get along and have a great time together.

AE: I would have to say the coaching staff. They’re not only encouraging us to become a better basketball player, but to become a better person. There’s life after basketball, and they’re also preparing you for that.

AB: I would say everything, the fans, the coaches, the team. I wouldn’t have to say one negative thing about it.


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