To think that 5 whole years have come and gone is something I’m still trying to comprehend. From the day I visited Drake’s campus for the first time, to everything in between, and now getting one last chance to explain what this incredible chapter in my life has meant to me.
This journey all started in my driveway- with mostly just my dad wearing multiple hats as coach and rebounder. Unfortunately back in the day, my older brother would never play with me because he knew I would win, and my sister Dana was pursuing things I wanted nothing to do with like dance or piano lessons. My dad and I have always had a special bond through basketball. In fact, I would be remised if I didn’t give him a shout-out for breaking a middle-school basketball habit of mine: that is picking up my dribble at the absolute worst possible times. I can still hear his voice echoing throughout the gym & needless to say, I dropped that habit pretty quickly.
I will forever be in debt to my mom and dad for their tough love of this sort and the many sacrifices they have made to help me get to where I am now. In a way, I began to build my identity as a basketball player these past couple years as the spark plug, the energy off the bench. I know the love and enthusiasm I have for this game all started with them. My siblings, too, deserve every bit of credit. From day one, it has never mattered to them whether we played great or had an off night, whether we won or lost. No matter what, they have walked with me every step of the way.
When people ask why I decided to come to Drake, it is always because it just felt like I belonged here. Duke University, who my grandma still thinks I play for, can’t even compete with Drake. This place continues to exceed my expectations in so many ways because it is embedded with people who care deeply for every single person who walks through their doors. And how could I possibly say no to that?
Since coming here, I have experienced firsthand a level of growth and maturity purely as a byproduct of the people I have been surrounded with. The first on that list being my coaches and teammates. It is tough to put into words how much this group of people means to me- not even because of the experiences they have afforded me, but because of the type of people they are. This coaching staff has played an integral role in why I have enjoyed these past few years as much as I have. You don’t just walk away from a journey like this and go your separate ways- these are the types of relationships you hope to have the rest of your life.
And to my teammates: what we felt were the triumphs, defeats, or conundrums of the season can almost be interpreted as another opportunity to lean on one another. One of my all-time favorite quotes says if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. Thanks to this group of women, I can say this year was one of my favorites because of how far we came and went together.
As a senior especially, I have had the chance to impact each of them in different ways- even if it is wowing them with my dance moves in the locker or weight room or laughing hysterically at one of Liza’s peanut gallery comments (and by hysterically I mean so obnoxiously that you have to laugh too). PS I got that trait from my mother.
Nothing will ever match the memories I have made with you all, but know I cannot wait to be apart of your journey from the stands. In what it feels to be the blink of an eye, you will be standing up here just like I am reaching for the right words to end on. The best piece of advice I can offer to you today is to savor everything it is that you have in front of you. Because the sooner you recognize its immense value, the better off you will be.
It is pretty crazy to think that my days as a college basketball player are over, and in a way, part of me is being left behind. When basketball has been your life for so long, it can be a tough pill to swallow. But even in accepting these realities, my heart has never been so full. What I hope for every person here to remember is that my Drake experience would have been nothing without all of you. You are the reason I am so incredibly proud to wear Drake on my chest and will continue to give back to this university and program in whatever ways I can.
I have never felt so confident, prepared, and excited to take on the next chapter because of the people in this room and the experiences I have been exposed to. I will not remember the tough losses or times of frustration themselves, but rather what I have gained them. I will remember the upsets, playing in the Knapp Center, and the history we made this season among others. I am completely humbled to have been a part of this place for five whole years, and for that I cannot thank you enough. All my best to the place that will always be home and people who will forever be family.