Two Sports, One Town, One Dream
Nov. 27, 2006
Purdue senior Brittany Dildine has always grown up wanting to be a Boilermaker. Now, she's doing everything she can to remain one. As her senior year on the volleyball court comes to a close, Dildine knows her career in Purdue athletics will not. As she did at nearby Harrison High School, the Lafayette native will once again turn in her knee pads for hi-tops and live her dream. And not just a two-sport athlete either. But as a two-sport Boilermaker.
"It was always a dream of mine to wear a Purdue jersey," Dildine said, having grown up around Purdue athletics and a family of Boilermaker graduates.
"It is an incredible honor. Not many people could say that they had done such a thing," Dildine said. "I am very lucky to have kept my health this far in my athletic career so that I could live such a dream. It is a once in a lifetime chance."
But playing basketball is something that Dildine has not done since high school.
At Harrison High, Dildine was a four-year letterwinner in both volleyball and basketball, earning several honors in both sports during those four years. In basketball, she surpassed the 1,000 career point mark during her senior season and earned Most Valuable Player and All-Conference accolades in both sports after her junior and senior campaigns. As a senior, Dildine was honored as Harrison's Female Athlete of the Year, due to her immense impact on the volleyball and basketball programs.
First-year Boilermaker basketball coach Sharon Versyp is also looking to make an immense impact in Mackey Arena, and soon realized after her hiring that her roster would be lacking bodies. Purdue head volleyball coach Dave Shondell noticed as well.
With an established friendship and the fact both teams share the same complex, the two coaches began to discuss the notion of one of Shondell's volleyball players helping out Versyp's basketball team at season's end.
Versyp already had someone in mind. She looked no further than her very own camp.
"Brittany worked all of our summer camps and knew that we would have fewer bodies than normal this year on our roster," Versyp said. "She has always loved basketball and it is something that she is very passionate about. She was hoping to play basketball and volleyball in college and volleyball just worked out for her. We chatted about it and said when the time got closer, we would see if maybe the opportunity presented itself."
And it did.
But while Dildine is eager for the chance to compete on the basketball court, she is not yet ready to step away from volleyball.
"I would love to participate in a Final Four match," she said. "When I was a freshman at Purdue, our volleyball team was ranked last in the Big Ten. We have made great strides with our program and it would be my dream to compete in Omaha this year in the Final Four."
Purdue head volleyball coach Dave Shondell attributes much of the Boilermakers' volleyball success to his senior defensive specialist.
"She epitomizes Purdue volleyball," Shondell said. "When we came here we wanted to build this program on defense and toughness. Brittany has been able to bring that to our program. She lives and breathes Purdue University. It's a rare commodity to find someone with the qualities she has."
Those qualities have also helped Dildine in the classroom.
"Athletics keep me on a strict schedule," she said. "Many students struggle with procrastination. That is not an option when you are a student-athlete. Sports have taught me what a good work ethic is."
Over the course of her career, Dildine has learned several lessons that she has received from volleyball and the experiences of learning how to balance academics and social activities.
"Attitude plays a huge role in this balancing act of athletics, academics, and social activities," Dildine said. There are many times that I wish I could have simply laid down and taken a nap instead of doing homework or running the stairs of Mackey Arena. But if I have the right attitude and keep everything in perspective, I can make the situation anything I want it to be."
One can understand why any coach would want her on their team.
But Dildine admits the transition from volleyball to basketball will not be easy. She knows that it will take a different type of training for both her mechanics and physical condition. She says "being in shape" means two separate things when comparing the two sports.
Shondell is confident in her abilities to be successful.
"Her strength is her toughness and that has certainly made a big impact on our volleyball program," he said. "She was more responsible than anybody as far as changing the environment of Purdue volleyball. She along with some other outstanding people helped change the manner in which we practiced and competed. Brittany plays as hard as any athlete I have ever coached or watched. She plays with reckless abandon. I think she plays as hard as anybody in the Big Ten. We're a top-ranked program because of what she has done for our program. We are where we are because of what she has done for us more so than what we have necessarily done for her."
Versyp sees a lot of the same qualities in Dildine as well. She noted that she was impressed by Dildine's athleticism and quickness, but more so by her competitive edge and her love of the game.
"She will outwork people," Versyp said. "When you have a passion for something and you will work you tail off, you could not ask for a better situation."
Shondell knows that better than anyone.
"One thing the basketball team will benefit from is she is a kid that won't back down from anything or anybody," he said. "She is a very dynamic athlete, a great jumper, and a very physical player for somebody that's only 5-foot-9. She is very competitive and a great leader that leads by example."
The 2006-07 season will certainly be a unique season year for Dildine. Currently, she is preparing with the volleyball squad to host first and second rounds of the NCAA Championship. The tournament, which begins this Thursday (Nov. 30), marks Purdue's third-straight berth and the 10th in the program's 31-year history. The Boilermakers' last trip to the tournament saw the team advance to the Sweet 16 after defeating Virginia Commonwealth and College of Charleston in the opening two rounds of action. Purdue bowed out of the 2005 event to eventual national champion Washington.
And the basketball team?
They are only preparing to travel to seventh-ranked Connecticut this week after spending the past three weeks capturing the Preseason WNIT Championship.
For Dildine, the opportunity she was given to stay home and compete collegiately for the school she grew up admiring has been a dream. Yet perhaps it is Purdue that lucked out by attracting such a talented and gifted young woman.
"I couldn't be any happier with where I am," Dildine says. "I have been blessed with the opportunity to share unforgettable moments with some unforgettable people."
And now a second Purdue coach and a second Boilermaker team will have an opportunity to be around an unforgettable person.
Both Dildine and Shondell just hope that opportunity comes after a mid-December visit to Omaha.