This season, Blake Dietrick has been absolutely stunning.
She’s had one of the best seasons for any Ivy League athlete. An all-around stud on both ends of the floor, she led the Tigers and ranked among the top of the league in points per game (15.1), assists per game (4.9), field goal percentage (48.9) and steals per game(1.2). The accolades followed the on-court performance: she was named to the Women’s College Basketball Association All-Region Team, an honorable mention for the Associated Press All-American team, and was the unanimous choice for the Ivy League Player of the Year.
Dietrick now has another honor to add to what is already an extensive list: the Daily Princetonian’s Female Athlete of the Year.
Of course, her great individual accomplishments are all the more magnified when taking into account the unbelievable heights to which she took her team. Captaining a team for the ages, Dietrick led her squad to its highest ever ranking in the AP Poll (13) and a perfect 30-0 regular season.
The postseason saw her step up when the team needed it most. Already averaging a workhorse amount of 32.8 minutes per game, she played every single minute of the Tigers’ two NCAA games. Against the Maryland Terrapins, No. 1 seed and one of the strongest college basketball teams in the nation, she put on one of her finest performances for the season, nearly setting a career high with 26 points on a scorching 10-18 shooting performance.
Her on-court accomplishments are certainly top level. But perhaps what is most stunning about Dietrick is her relentlessness, the competitive drive that seems evident both as she plays the game and as she talks about her goals for the future.
When asked whether she ever needed any kind of external motivation, Dietrick quickly brushed the question aside.
“I’m extremely competitive.” Dietrick said. “I’ve always pushed myself to be the best that I possibly can.”
Indeed, the notion that Dietrick might need someone other than herself to push her onto greatness seems ridiculous to anyone who has been around her. Her intense desire to succeed is evident to those that talk with her, and certainly to those lucky enough to call her a teammate.
“She's the type of kid that will just keep on fighting no matter what and I think that's the very best type of leader and teammate anyone can ask for,” sophomore guard Vanessa Smith said. “But at the same time, her love for the game is contagious and you can tell playing with her or from the stands what it means for her. Her work ethic and mental toughness is what has brought her and our team success this season.”
Indeed, it would be remiss to talk about Dietrick’s immense success this past season without noting the work she has put in from her freshman year onward to grow into the player she is today. In addition, her role on the team has evolved from a catch-and-shooter — high three-point percentages and very few assists are evident from her freshman year statistics — to the all-around playmaker she is today.
While a regular contributor from early on in her career — she played in 23 games her freshman year — Dietrick points out that her adjustment from high school to college ball was a tough shift to handle.
“I didn’t adjust very quickly to the college game.” Dietrick admits.
The solution to the problem? Just more time in the gym.
“I just kept working at it," Dietrick said. "The difference between the player I am now and the player I was then is crazy.”
Just like her competitiveness, the amount of progress she has made in her game is not lost on her teammates.
“Having played with [Blake] for 3 years, I have seen her grow tremendously to become a dynamic player with a high basketball IQ,” junior guard Michelle Miller said. “Her competitiveness and will to win set her apart, and I think these qualities will make her successful on the next level."
As Miller points out, Dietrick’s amazing year has not finished yet. After receiving an invitation to training camp from the Washington Mystics of the WNBA, Dietrick will find out in late May if she gets the opportunity to continue her passion at the highest level.
Dietrick has taken no time off in preparing for this dream. While a post-thesis life is normally the most relaxing time for most Princeton students, she has worked to prepare herself physically and mentally for the next great leap.
“Physically, I’m prepared” Dietrick said. “Mentally, [it’s about] understanding that everyone is fighting for their job. The mentality [of the WNBA] is a work environment.
The need for a little bit more selfishness appears counterintuitive. Dietrick has expressed earlier that the work mentality and the need to look out for one’s self in the workplace goes against the skills she’s developed as a leader for this Princeton team.
It’s funny writing about Dietrick’s successes when potentially even greater successes are just on the horizon. It may be impossible to predict the future, but if Dietrick’s time as a Tiger is any indication, the Athlete of the Year award will not be the last she receives for her basketball prowess.