Posted: Feb 11, 2021
Cambridge, Mass: It was an unexpected surprise for Seymour's Sydnie Drezek, a gesture that has even more meaning to this day. Drezek was set to play her very first women's college basketball game for Lesley University against host New England College in Henniker, N.H. nearly a year ago on Jan. 28, 2020.
"Being nearly three hours away from home in New Hampshire on a Tuesday night, my family told me that no one would be able to make it," said Drezek. "Warm up starts and in walks my 6-foot-6 father. I couldn't miss him. And he didn't miss a game after that. That was of one of my fondest memories of my father (Craig)."
Sydnie's dad died unexpectedly at age 49 last June.
After sitting out due to NCAA transfer rules from Southern Connecticut State University, the 5-foot-7 freshman guard was inspired, finishing the 2019-20 season on a torrid pace, averaging 16.3 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.9 assists and playing 39 minutes per game.
"It felt very satisfying to be back on the court," said Drezek. "I wasn't going to worry about my individual performances. My coaches kind of gave me free rein to play and obviously told me to just do my best and you won't be penalized if I made a mistake. I just played hard and felt that I fit in rather well."
In her final three games, respectively, she recorded point totals of 30 (Dean College), 35 (Bay Path) and 25 (Becker). In a 59-54 win over Bay Path, Drezek connected on all 17 free throws attempts, a stunning feat. She also played in all 40 minutes in all three.
"Sydnie jumped right in midseason to an inexperienced team and provided the leadership and knowledge to give confidence to others on the court," said Lesley interim head coach Heather Ross.
"She played a crucial role in both setting up the offense when dishing assists, or creating space for herself to hit the jumper. She came in prepared and ready to compete for 40 minutes. She really did an impressive job managing her own game at a high level, while also being an exceptional teammate. It just goes to show the type of person she is off the court, and one we are glad to have in our program."
Ross noted that Drezek made an instant impression when she first arrived on campus for a visit to pursue graphic design opportunities.
"Within a few minutes of talking with Sydnie, we knew she would be the catalyst we were looking for to rebuild our basketball program in the coming seasons," said Ross. "It doesn't surprise me that as a sophomore she is the Vice Chair of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee."
Sporting a 3.94 grade-point average last semester, Drezek 19, is majoring in graphic design with a projected double minor in psychology and art therapy. Drezek returned to her Cambridge, Mass., apartment last weekend and is set to resume remote classes. Athletes can resume limited training this winter, but competitions have been canceled for the winter due to COVID-19.
Drezek will think of her dad often as she hits the gymnasium floor.
"My dad taught me to love basketball and would spend hours in the gym with me perfecting my shot and then hours after my games watching film and going over what I did well and what I could have done better," Drezek said. "He was my first recreational basketball coach and even taught me how to shoot, use the backboard, dribble with my head up, and the importance of my left hand. The most important thing I've taken from the many years of critique and feedback from him, was perseverance."
Craig and Jamie's oldest of five children - Alexandra, is a senior education major at Southern Connecticut, following in Craig's footsteps. Kiley, a basketball standout, is a senior at Seymour High.
Their son, Caden, is a sophomore football and basketball player for the Wildcats. Their youngest daughter, Colbie, is in seventh grade, but unable to play. There are no middle school sports this year.
Seymour girls basketball coach Brian Cleveland said, "Sydnie put the work in year round to hone in on her skills. In high school, Sydnie required attention from opposing teams. Her talent and threat from 3-point range helped us become a complete team and helped push us to become a team that couldn't be taken lightly ... Kiley is the most improved player I have ever been around. I wish every kid would put the work into the off-season that Kiley has. Her passion for the game is unmatched as she plays every possession as it's her last.
"All the qualities above can be attributed to Craig in some way," added Cleveland. "He helped coach our summer and fall league teams as well as their AAU teams."
Mark Jaffee, Waterbury Republican American