Michaela Dapprich never spent much time in the weight room at Branson High in Missouri.
She would lift whenever required in class, but that's not the source of the brute strength that has made Dapprich a fixture on the Missouri Valley championship team at Wichita State this season. That originated from the construction sites where Dapprich toiled countless summer hours for her father. When WSU coach Jody Adams learned of this blue-collar work ethic, she was sold on the under-sized post.
Now Dapprich will play a role in deciding how far the Shockers go this week at the MVC Tournament in St. Charles, Mo.. WSU, the No. 1 seed, will play Drake at on Friday at noon.
“I think physical kids that play hard and are mentally tough, they move along a lot quicker,” Adams said. “So no surprises there.”
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On a senior-laden team, Dapprich has forced her way onto the court and has become a favorite of Adams because of her discipline to defense. Despite a 5-foot-10 frame that is typically dwarfed in the lane by taller posts, Dapprich wins most battles for position.
The freshman was last week's MVC newcomer of the week after scoring 17 points in WSU's title-clinching victory over Missouri State last week. Dapprich averaged 7.7 points in Valley play and her 17 three-pointers at a 44.7-percent clip is second on the team.
All of this after a broken hand that forced her out of most of the non-conference schedule.
“It's all about hustle,” Dapprich said. “I like to move people out of the paint. I might be shorter, but I know how to get position and keep them out of where they can score.”
In high school, where Dapprich garnered all-state honors, no one could move her from the blocks. Players are bigger and stronger at the collegiate level, so Dapprich has adapted by mastering angles.
“Her center of gravity is so much lower than everybody else,” Adams said. “People don't want to play that low. People that play that low have an advantage in a game like this.”
None of that is news to Branson coach Kip Bough, who also coached Moriah Dapprich, Michaela's younger sister who is signed to play for WSU next season.
Bough never doubted Michaela's game translated to the next level, especially after shifting more to the perimeter during her senior season. That's where the foundation was built for this season's success from outside the arc for WSU.
“She was such a matchup problem for teams,” Bough said. “If you put a taller, slender kid on her then she can bury you deep inside and if you put a big kid on her then she's quick enough to get by.
“She had a decent shot when she was here, but she never really shot it from the outside much. That's probably been the biggest surprise.”
Adams sees three more years of mismatches to her future. Adams has Dapprich on specialized training to pack on muscle and keep her mobility.
But for this first season, Dapprich isn't concerned much about personal growth. Ever since she's entered the program, one thought has dominated her mind.
“I'm going to do everything I can do to help this team for the seniors,” Dapprich said. “There's six of them and this is their last year so I'm going to do whatever it takes to send them out on top.”