Mady Draak (2020) works into scholarship offers
October 30, 2018
High school basketball: Bay Port's Draak works her way into scholarship offers
Scott Venci, Green Bay Press-Gazette Published 5:16 p.m. CT Oct. 30, 2018
Mady Draak started playing basketball in part because she grew out of gymnastics.
Literally, grew out of it.
It’s been an interesting ride for the 6-foot-1 junior center from Bay Port. In three years, she has gone from a player stuck at the end of the bench in AAU to receiving college scholarship offers.
What sticks out most to those who know Draak is how she arrived at this point. She never expected anything to be handed to her. She knows what she wants, and she works hard to earn it. She listens to her coaches and has a burning desire to be as good as she can no matter what she is doing.
It started with gymnastics, soccer and swimming and continued with basketball. She even went out for cross country this fall.
When Draak started playing basketball in sixth grade, she didn’t know much about the sport or what was going on around her during the first day of practice.
It was a challenge. She likes challenges.
Draak believes work ethic is what shows a person’s true character. She had a lot to learn, including how to use her length to her advantage.
When she got to eighth grade, her parents, Todd and Kerin, reached out to the Purple Aces, a local AAU program.
They told Purple Aces coach Cordero Barkley how their daughter was tall and athletic and had taken a liking to basketball, but that they needed someone to invest time in her.
“She is not the kid, and her parents are not the parents, that pulled her from a team or school because she wasn’t starting with me and didn’t play varsity right away as a freshman,” Barkley said. “Her situation forced her to work harder than everyone else, and it turned her into a much better basketball player. She earned college scholarships. Some parents would have pulled her from my team and been complaining to her high school coach freshman year that she wasn’t on varsity.
“I give Mady and her parents all of the credit for trusting the process and not chasing a shortcut to success.”
That attitude was on display during her first two seasons with the Pirates.
Draak played on varsity during her rookie season, but she also was shuttled to the junior varsity squad like a minor league baseball player who got a taste of the majors only to be sent back down.
Playing JV was a way to get her more playing time and build confidence for a shy and quiet kid. During her time on varsity, she got to watch and learn from the veterans, including former standout and Truman State recruit Maddie Re.
“She is the type of kid who is going to work for you,” Bay Port coach Kati Coleman said. “That’s always nice. I think it was a little hard for her freshman year because I pulled her up and then she played a couple games on JV, but she took it in stride.
“Last year, it was basically, ‘What do you need from me?’”
Draak blossomed midway through her sophomore season. She received her first Division I offer from Northern Illinois University in July and has offers from DII Michigan Tech and Truman State.
On Friday, she boarded a plane to Connecticut for a visit with Yale University. Harvard likely is next.
She’s a dedicated student who hopes to be an engineer after college. She once skipped a basketball tournament for a robotics one.
Draak’s life is much more than just sports, but her basketball talent will end up getting her a free education.
Everything started to click during the holiday break in December, notably during a game at De Pere in which she scored 11 points in a 64-39 win.[Mady Draak, second from left, became a bit too tall for gymnastics.]Mady Draak, second from left, became a bit too tall for gymnastics. (Photo: Courtesy Todd Draak)
Draak had not scored double figures in the first eight games of the season and hadn’t scored more than four points in the four games leading up to the showdown against the Redbirds.
“I think I had more confidence,” Draak said. “We were doing good, but we weren’t doing the best, so I think I wanted to help my team win.
“It was the motivation our team had to win that really helped me, and everyone else, to step up.”
It was the start of a strong second half for Draak, who helped guide a young Pirates squad to the Fox River Classic Conference championship and a WIAA Division 1 sectional championship game.
She followed her performance against De Pere with back-to-back 17-point outings against West De Pere and Pulaski and 10 points against Green Bay Preble.
Draak then put up a career-high 23 against Green Bay Southwest, although it really was just the beginning of her breakout.
She ended the season on a complete tear, scoring double figures in each of her final seven games. In Bay Port’s four tournament contests, she averaged 10.8 points and made 19 of 26 shot attempts.
Draak averaged 9.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and shot 61.5 percent as a sophomore, while also contributing 27 steals and 24 blocks.
The coaching staff at Bay Port joked that Draak was like a baby deer when she arrived. She has learned a lot in the two years that have followed.
“But, again, she wants to work. She wants to get better,” Coleman said. “Anything you tell her, she takes it in stride and works on it. I know if I tell her, ‘Mady, I want you to work on a 360 dunk,’ I know she is going to work on it.
“I don’t know if things clicked (against De Pere last season) or if she was just confident. … We were like, ‘Mady, you are around the basket. We want you to score.’ A lot of the times she would get it inside and she’d be one-on-one and there might be a double team, and she would automatically pass it out.”
The coaching staff continued to urge her to look for her shot, to make some moves around the basket and become a factor down low. There would be times in practice when they would tell her to score, whether she was wide open, tripled-teamed or standing at half court.
“It was us having her get that scoring mentality,” Coleman said. “Just go.”
Bay Port not only will be a favorite to win the FRCC again, but it also likely will be considered a strong contender to make it to state for the third time in program history and the first time since 2000.
The Pirates have their top six players back, and it’s likely Draak will continue to gain exposure with another good run.
She wants to work on her rebounding and continue to make strides on her offensive game. She also wants the Pirates to grow an even stronger bond on the court.
As for her college plans, that decision doesn’t have to happen right now.
“I don’t have a timeline,” Draak said. “I think whatever school comes along that feels like the best fit will probably be what is going to happen. I want to make sure I get the best fit for myself.”
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