When senior guard Robin Draper reflects on her Fresno State career, one word comes to mind: “Mindblowing.”
Draper is one of five seniors — along with Alex Sheedy, Raven Fox, Jessy Saint-Felix and Stephanie Rovetti — that will be honored before the final game of the regular season at 7 p.m. Friday against Boise State.
She’s also one of three (Sheedy and Fox the others) in that bunch who have stuck through an often unpredictable four years at Fresno State. Alex Furr also has been along for the ride, but won’t be honored Friday as she appeals for a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA because of past injury-plagued seasons.
As freshmen, Draper, Sheedy and Fox joined a rising program that had reached four straight NCAA Tournaments and reigned supreme in the Western Athletic Conference.
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The winning continued, but plenty else changed over the next four seasons.
In 2012, coach Adrian Wiggins left for Ole Miss and was replaced by Raegan Pebley. Two seasons later, Pebley departed for Texas Christian. Now Fresno State is under the direction of first-year coach Jaime White.
But it was amid that adversity, through that constant changeover, that the team toughened up.
“Through that first year, we went through a stage where we had to be mentally tough and had to grow up,” Sheedy said.
With new coaches almost every other season, the veterans always had to prove their worth from scratch.
“They don’t know you,” Draper said. “They don’t know your history other than film, which doesn’t show practice, work ethic and stuff like that. Just proving yourself each time shows how much hard work we’ve gone through. … You really had to prove what you learned the last three years.”
The Bulldogs not only proved themselves, but kept the winning culture alive and thriving.
Since the 2012-13 season, the Bulldogs have gone 94-34 (.734), won three conference tournaments (even while also moving to the tougher Mountain West) and extended Fresno State’s streak of NCAA bids to seven.
For White, taking over a program that had that level of achievement already instilled made her job a lot easier.
“That always helps your kids to produce at a higher level,” she said.
“To have the intensity and swagger initially. Nothing changed with that. They had a history already, they had success already and this group of kids were not going to not be successful.”
The Bulldogs still face a long road to continue that rich tradition this season.
Boise State won the previous meeting 75-66 in overtime on Feb. 14 in Boise. But the Bulldogs hope to avenge that loss and, with a win, earn at least the No. 3 seed at next week’s conference tournament — where they will be eyeing another run to an automatic NCAA bid.
If New Mexico loses at Wyoming, Fresno State could move to No. 2. Should the Lobos win, the Bulldogs are the No. 3. A loss to Boise State gives them the No. 4 spot.
“We all know what it takes to win,” Draper said. “We tell ourselves each day we’re a championship team.”