Senior Cortni Rush Finds Perfect Fit in Bulldog Uniform

first_img“We knew right away, no matter who we talked to whether it was coaches or teammates, what kind of character Cortni had and what kind of person she was,” Baranczyk said. “Anyone that has ever been around her absolutely loves her – and that has never changed since we recruited her.” Little did Rush know that losing to teams like Southeast Polk and Dowling Catholic at state and in the regular season would come full circle. Back then, star players like Caitlin Ingle and Becca Hittner were highlighted on the scouting report. Today, the three of them ironically get to represent the state of Iowa in a Bulldog uniform. After a First-team All-National Junior College Athletic Association Region XI selection, a NJCAA Division II All-American nod and a third-place finish for the Trojans at the NJCAA Division II tournament, it’s to no surprise Baranczyk and Pohlman picked Rush to help build Drake into something special. The Mason City, Iowa native, although a valued member of her high school softball team with the ability to play catcher, all three positions in the outfield, or shortstop – had her eyes set on playing basketball at the next level. With dreams of playing in her home state, it was a rather unorthodox path that landed Rush on Drake’s roster. “Cortni has a way about her that she just wants everybody to do really, really well and she also holds herself to a high standard,” Baranczyk added. “She does what it takes on the floor and she does what it takes off the floor because she comes from such an authentic space. When we talk about her as the glue, that’s what we mean.” Those types of people include precisely what Rush has brought to the table for the Bulldogs throughout her career: being the ultimate team player and using that Iowa grit to get the job done. It was rather easy to spot Rush’s selfless demeanor as she rotated around the softball field where her coaches saw fit and – believe it or not – played the post position all throughout high school. While most basketball players at the high school level were traveling all over the country with AAU teams, Rush was still committed to softball in the summers for the time being. It was the unprecedented success of her basketball team at Mason City High School that caught the attention of nearby junior colleges. After going out on a limb to simply give the sport a shot, basketball stuck with her. But as time grew, softball was neck-and-neck when it came to winning Rush’s heart over. Needless to say, Spalding eventually won that battle. “We use the term utility for Cortni and I mean that in the highest compliment,” Baranczyk said. “She thinks so highly of the people around her that it elevates them to another level.” “The relationships I’ve made and the things I’ve learned along the way…I never would have imagined where I am right now,” Rush said. “It’s pretty unique how I got here and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Where I am right now is exactly where I’m supposed to be.” “After talking to Jennie and Allison, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to come to Drake after one year at NIACC,” Rush said. “Just the way they talked about the direction the program was heading, Drake’s style of play and the academics – I knew this was what I wanted.” Even so, being part of a team where four of five starters went on to play at the Division I level wasn’t as glamorous at times as it might sound. The first two years of Rush’s high school basketball career went from the excitement of qualifying for state to the heartache of losing on Iowa high school basketball’s biggest stage rather quickly. “As I got to high school, the competitiveness dropped with softball,” Rush said. “It was a lot different for basketball – I liked that aspect more.” Not much has changed other than posting up on the block for Rush. Nowadays, you’ll likely find her spotting up beyond the arc or flying into the paint for rebounds. In short, you’ll see her doing whatever the team needs. Rush has been the glue to a senior class vital in transforming a culture – a culture now garnering national buzz and a Top 25 ranking. Soon, Rush will be suiting up one last time for the Bulldogs and shifting her focus to graduation and applying to physical therapy schools in the midwest. Battling injuries herself from time to time, while being exposed to a whole new perspective of basketball and life from the sideline, has her even more equipped for this career path. Her junior year, Mason City’s hopes of advancing in the tournament for the first time were zapped after coming out on the wrong side of a buzzer beater. It wasn’t until Rush’s senior season that Mason City thumped Iowa City West to win the program’s first-ever state tournament game in Wells Fargo Arena. In Rush’s freshman season, Mason City didn’t make it to state. But one year later, her high school squad appeared at the state tournament for the first time in school history with a one-point win in the section championship. Wells Fargo Arena was no longer uncharted territory for the Mohawks. It was, in fact, a quite familiar place by the time Rush graduated. Based off conversations with the coaching staff alone, and having never met her future teammates before giving Drake the final yes, Rush had no reservations about her decision to leave junior college a year early. “I was nervous to a certain extent about not meeting any of the players before committing,” Rush said. “But I’ve never had issues getting along with people, and based on the conversations I had with Jennie, I knew the type of people she recruited at Drake.” When asked if her experience in a Drake uniform has been everything she hoped it would be, Rush had zero hesitation in saying it has been even more. And considering the senior has been sidelined with several unlucky injuries over the last three years – a response so certain captures exactly what makes her the special player she is. Drake women’s basketball senior Cortni Rush was always the tallest in her class growing up. In third grade, her physical education teacher suggested she give basketball a try for this reason alone. Rush’s first stop, however, inn route to her dream of playing Division I basketball was at Northern Iowa Area Community College (NIACC) in her hometown of Mason City. Although most take the full two years at the junior college level – Rush was an exception. She had an opportunity to play softball and basketball at the DII level, as well as some other DI interest for solely basketball, but nothing seemed to catch her eye. That is, until Drake head coach Jennie Baranczyk and associate head coach Allison Pohlman came along. For someone whose team-first outlook is second nature, the next chapter is bound to be a fruitful one. Print Friendly Versionlast_img

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