WINONA LAKE – The Grace women’s basketball team has rallied around the slogan “Best Is The New Standard”. It’s fitting, then, that one of its own has become the all-time leading scorer in program history.
Vironnica Drake has been plugging away at the scoring record since coming in as a superstar prep player at Marion. A wide open style with the Lady Giants, Drake was almost destined to put up points in bunches. But that wasn’t always the case when she got to campus in Winona Lake. A coaching change after her sophomore season brought in Dan Davis for Scott Blum.
A different pace. A different style. A different attitude. But also came a different viewpoint for Drake. Rather than just trying to fill the scorebook, Drake was finding her all-around game. On and off the court.
“Sometimes you just get into a rhythm and you go with it,” Drake said after practice earlier this week. “There’s nights when you feel like you can’t miss. Then there’s nights that you see your teammates and they are hot, you get them the ball. That’s one thing I love about this team, we play for each other.”
Her all-time on-court moment came in the second quarter against St. Francis last weekend. Driving to the basket, Drake got her layup to drop, passing Juaneice Jackson with her 1,894th point. The accomplishment was recognized, but Drake hasn’t been on a victory tour promoting her latest accomplishment. There are bigger goals in the picture.
“It’s a nice accomplishment, I’m just blessed,” Drake said. “My team, they just have faith in me. My coaches that recruited me and now work with me every day, I’m just blessed. It’s a blessing to have my name at the top of the list.”
Rather than falling into the trap that sometimes comes with a style change, Drake seemed to thrive. Her points per game average rose from 13.8 as a sophomore to 14.8 as a junior, and she shot twice as many free throws as the next player on the Lancers. That hasn’t changed as a senior, where Drake is averaging 19.6 points a night (through Feb. 19) and is starting to stack up items for her bedroom wall.
Drake has been named a Crossroads League Player of the Week twice, an NCCAA Player of the Week three times, and broke the single-season scoring record with 46 big ones against Bethel earlier this season. No player in Grace College history has ever eclipsed 2,000 points, and Drake is within 80 of that accomplishment. She is currently ranked within the top 10 in scoring in the NAIA Division II ranks.
“I wish I had four years with V, man,” said Grace College women’s basketball coach Dan Davis. “She has really grown as a basketball player, but more importantly, as a person. I keep telling her, we’re coming to the end. This is where the special ones, they have that other gear they don’t think they have. Not personally, but taking the team to another notch. That’s one thing I’ve seen in V this season, she has that next gear. She still hasn’t tapped into all her potential.”
Drake and the Lady Lancers have one more game this regular season, at home Saturday against Mount Vernon Nazarene. Then the Lancers shift to the Crossroads League tournament. From there, the team will wait for the phone to ring on whether it will take to the NAIA national tournament or take a couple weeks off to prepare for the NCCAA nationals, which Grace will host the NCCAAs one way or another. Grace’s 18 wins is two off the team record, which Drake and the team are well aware of.
It’s a team Drake loves to go to battle with each day.
“These girls are incredible, I can’t even,” Drake said, pausing and refocusing. “This group is amazing. They are my sisters. It’s been a huge impact in my life. They’ve got my back, I’ve got theirs…”
Drake paused again, looked toward the window in coach Davis’ office, and offered, “I just love ’em. There’s nothing more that I could ask for. Serving for my teammates, serving for my school. This has been the biggest platform of my life.”