On the plane ride home from Penn State, the team Michaela Dapprich had believed Wichita State had out-played for 40 minutes in a 62-56 NCAA Tournament loss, Dapprich allowed her mind to wander.
“It was like everything clicked,” Dapprich said. “I was thinking, ‘Now I’m a junior and the year after that I’m going to be the only senior. They’re going to need me to step up.’”
In her first two seasons at WSU, Dapprich had given the Shockers production, albeit inconsistently, and preferred to lead by example rather than verbally. To be a leader under coach Jody Adams, inconsistency and silent leadership cannot exist.
Ever since Dapprich stepped off that plane, she has morphed into the best version of herself — the version that Adams was hoping would emerge from the silent, 18-year-old who showed up two years ago — that she will debut Saturday when WSU hosts Creighton in its opener.
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“We always talk about inches within the program, and that was an inch for her,” Adams said. “It’s made her more confident. It’s made her more active. You love to see your players change, especially in that maturity phase. Right now she’s just a beast.”
Teammates have always respected Dapprich due to her diligence in practice and the toughness she has displayed guarding much taller players in the post. But that leadership never translated to spoken words during practice and games.
“When she first came here, she literally would not say one word,” WSU senior Kelsey Jacobs recalled. “On or off the court.”
They immediately noticed a difference in preseason practices. Dapprich was fiery, unafraid to call out teammates during a drill if she noticed something off.
Jacobs still remembers the first time Dapprich chastised her during a drill. Jacobs was stunned at first that it was Dapprich, normally so shy, that was demanding her to be better. It was a welcome change, though, according to Jacobs.
“She’s such a good example for all of the young underclassmen to follow,” Jacobs said. “You have to change. You can’t stay how you were when you came out of high school. You have to change to fit our philosophy, and she’s a great example of that.”
Dapprich admits the change is still new to her, too.
“Sometimes there is a hesitation,” Dapprich said. “Sometimes I feel like I don’t have the right to tell them to do that.”
That’s not surprising to hear to Moriah Dapprich, Michaela’s younger sister by a year who joined WSU last season. The two offer slightly different skill sets, but do so in similar demeanors. Michaela is more apt to play the post, but Moriah, at 6-foot, is slightly taller. Both can shoot from outside.
Moriah is described by teammates nearly identical as Michaela was as a sophomore. Quiet, reserved, soft-spoken.
“We are both pretty quiet,” Moriah said. “But we’re both working on getting out of our shells and learning to talk more and communicate better.”
Seeing Michaela become a leader gives Moriah the confidence that when her time comes, she too, can be a leader.
It’s an inspiration that Michaela felt when recalling the senior leaders when she was a freshman. The group that started this run of excellence at WSU – Jazimen Gordon, Jessica Diamond, and Chyna Turner – are not forgotten.
“They were great leaders and I want to be like them,” Michaela said. “I want to lead like them.”