Like the eye of a hurricane, Naperville North’s Abby Drendel is the calm in the middle of a storm.
The senior guard is an island of stability even when the Huskies appear to be in a sea of chaos on the court.
Now more than ever, that is a big comfort to Naperville North coach Erin Colletti.
“She’s an awesome leader,” Colletti said. “She’s someone that keeps composure and is always a positive encourager on the floor.
“She’s someone that I definitely can look to and rely on in those moments of chaos. I depend on her a lot. She has a lot of responsibility in regards to keeping us mentally focused in the game.”
The 5-foot-10 Drendel is a four-year varsity starter who has committed to play at McKendree. She is also committed to helping her teammates any way she can.
Since her freshman year, that has meant being a defensive stopper and unwavering hustler all over the court. Drendel is being asked to do even more this season, especially on the offensive end, where the Huskies (5-5) lack the dominant scorer they’ve had over the past five seasons with Greta Kampschroeder and Kenzie Hare.
“It means more shooting,” Drendel said. “I definitely have to focus on that a lot. I have to make those shots.
“Over the summer, playing high competition, I was learning how to finish more inside, driving into the lane. I need to work on that a little more, but I’ll still look for my assists to my teammates. It’s always been one of my most important things.”
In her second year as a team captain, Drendel is averaging 10.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.8 steals while converting 42.2% of her 3-point attempts. She’s doing that while playing two positions.
After playing mostly point guard the past three seasons, Drendel recently moved to shooting guard, with junior Sydni Fink taking over at point guard.
Colletti made the switch in order to give Drendel more scoring opportunities. But Fink missed the Huskies’ 55-45 loss at Batavia on Saturday due to a club soccer commitment.
Drendel ran the offense and finished with a team-high 15 points, four steals and three assists. She remained serene even as the Bulldogs (6-2) pulled away at the end.
Senior forward Peyton Fenner, who has been Drendel’s teammate since they were freshmen, loves that aspect of Drendel’s personality.
“She’s calm and has compassion,” Fenner said. “At halftime, she’s always the first one who talks, and she’s always telling us what we can do, not telling everyone what they can’t.
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“She doesn’t yell at her teammates — ever. I see a level of maturity, an ability to kind of step outside the emotions of the game and tell everybody what we need to hear.”
Where does that compassion come from? Probably from navigating the dynamics of her family, which includes brothers Bailey, 24, and Dawson, 10, and sister Hannah, 21.
“Having older siblings, when they are mad at my little brother, I’ve got to be there for him and get him to calm down,” Drendel said. “But I also say that freshman year I was 100% not that calm, and I still am not as calm. You’ll hear (assistant Molly) Murray say, ‘Stop, pull it back.’”
Those moments are rare, and Colletti won’t put a damper on the natural competitiveness of Drendel, whose father is a cousin of Naperville North football coach Sean Drendel. But Abby Drendel’s ability to not get overwhelmed in the moment is her best quality.
“We need her shooting, her ability to create for others, and she’s got to defend too,” Colletti said. “But her leadership and keeping us calm is huge. When she sees her teammates get down on themselves, she’s like, ‘Hey, you’re good.’
“She has their back.”
Matt Le Cren is a freelance reporter for the Naperville Sun.