Next Level Seniors: Lindsay Drango Commits to Whitman College to Continue Her Basketball Career

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Photo courtesy of Lindsay Drango

Senior Lindsay Drango is committed to play basketball at Whitman College.

Paige Baines and Maddie Khaw

Senior Lindsay Drango spent two years on the sidelines due to injuries, but that didn’t stop her from pursuing her athletic dreams and committing to Whitman College in eastern Washington to play basketball after high school.

She is a part of a group of seniors who have signed to play at the collegiate level, students we are profiling in our Next Level Seniors series.

Drango has been playing basketball ever since she was old enough to join a team. She also played soccer and track and field when she was younger, but ended up sticking with basketball because she liked the “constant activity” and the team aspect. Track and field is more of an individual competition, and with soccer, she said, “I feel like you’re not always with the ball or in the play. I feel like there is a lot of standing, and I’d just get bored in soccer. I feel like I’m never bored with basketball.”

Drango started playing club basketball in fourth grade with the club Clutch Players, and then switched clubs to the Stars when she entered high school. She plays post for the La Salle team, but said that she is “more of a wing” for her club team.

Throughout her basketball career, Drango has been motivated and committed. She said that she never takes “more than a couple days off,” since she plays year round. “You can’t stop,” she said. 

Not only does Drango work hard with her team, which she calls her “second family,” to polish her skills on the basketball court, but she also makes sure to put in extra work on her own. “You have practices, but you also have to do stuff on your own all the time,” she said. “You have to do weights and lifting and extra conditioning. It’s not just in the gym, it’s all kinds of stuff.”

However, with the coronavirus pandemic, she has been unable to train as she normally would. By mid-March, her La Salle team had made it to the semifinals of the state playoffs when the tournament was suddenly canceled due to concerns around the spread of the virus.

Photo courtesy of Lindsay Drango
Drango said that her basketball team is like a “second family.”

The countless hours of hard work that Drango has put into her game have set her on her path towards committing to play Division III basketball, but her recruitment journey was not without obstacles to overcome. 

In April of her freshman year, she tore her ACL, leading her to miss out on her sophomore year of basketball, which she said is a crucial time for recruitment. After a year of physical therapy, she finally got back on the court, only to tear her ACL a second time immediately after she began playing again, during May of her sophomore year. 

Up until then, Drango had been attending Lake Oswego High School. At the beginning of her junior year, she transferred to La Salle, where she met her new high school team and went on to win a state championship later that year. 

But before being able to help her team win the state title, she faced the challenge of recovering from her injury and getting back on the court at a high level of play — and this was not an easy task.

“I had to work very closely with a couple of coaches and my trainers on different things,” she said. “I had to put in a lot of extra time even just to play La Salle basketball.”

Drango recounts one practice during her recovery when she was trying to get back into the swing of things. She said that she spent an hour doing layups, which is one of the simpler and more foundational aspects of the game.

“It was one of the most frustrating things, but it was the little things that I had to get used to,” she said. “I just had to figure out how things worked again… It was like riding a bike — you don’t really forget, but there [were] little things, like getting used to contact. I think [that was] a big struggle of mine for a while.”

One person who has been of major support to Drango throughout her experience is her coach at La Salle, Kelli Wedin. Wedin worked with Drango to help her return to basketball and overcome her fears getting back on the court.

Drango said that during her time at La Salle, Wedin has “become like a second mom” to her. “She’s honestly a big part of why I am who I am today,” Drango said. “Before I came to La Salle I was not the same person and not the same player [that I am now], and she just had a huge impact on my life.”

Drango said that she appreciates “the way [Wedin] coaches,” and that she “treats her players like we’re all just one family.” 

“I want to be just like her when I’m older,” Drango said. “I want to coach, I want to do the exact same thing.”

Photo courtesy of Lindsay Drango
Drango overcame two major injuries on her way to becoming a college athlete.

After overcoming her injuries, Drango was recruited by Whitman coaches who watched her play at summer tournaments. Though she had also been in contact with coaches from schools in the same conference as Whitman, such as Lewis & Clark College and George Fox University, she ended up choosing Whitman because of the team’s camaraderie and the school’s location, which she said is a “perfect balance” of being close to home, but not too close to home. 

“I went and visited there and I stayed the night with the team and stuff, and I just loved the atmosphere,” she said. “Honestly [the coach] reminds me of Kelli a little bit, and [with] all the players, I love how it’s kind of like a family there.”

Drango committed to Whitman early this year, but physically signed her commitment just a few weeks ago.

“They were just talking to me and they were like, ‘we want you to play here,’” she said. “It’s not the same as Division I, so there’s no scholarship with it, but you have to make a commitment to play there if you go.”

She said that she had a “pretty big list of schools” that she had planned to apply to, but she applied to Whitman on early decision, and when she found out that she was admitted, she withdrew all of her other applications.

“I’d honestly never heard of [Whitman], but I visited the school and I just fell in love with it,” she said. “It wasn’t all about basketball either; for me, obviously I knew I wanted to play [in] college, but I just love the school’s academics and I just fell in love with the campus.”

Drango plans to major in biology and minor in psychology, and hopes to become a physical therapist. After spending so much time in physical therapy herself, she said that she was drawn to the idea of “helping people get back on the court or the field, just returning to [sports] because that was such a big part of my life.”

Drango said that the most important part of her recruitment process was to make sure that she got to know the coaches and players at Whitman before she made the choice to go there, and also to make sure that she watched film from their games to see the team in action. 

For other student athletes considering playing at the college level, she said that it’s important to “see if it’s the kind of atmosphere you want to be a part of because I feel like that makes a huge difference in whether or not you’ll be happy there. Focus on that more than what level it is or stuff like that. I feel like you really need to be somewhere that’ll make you happy.”