Draunidalo commits to Long Beach State for basketball

Draunidalo commits to Long Beach State for basketball

Draunidalo commits to Long Beach State for basketball

It was a Merry Christmas for Va Draunidalo for more than one reason.

The 2016 McDermitt High School graduate announced that she has committed to play basketball for Long Beach State, with a full-ride scholarship to the southern California school.

She was officially offered the scholarship on her birthday (Dec. 13) and announced her decision on Christmas day.

“I am still in shock and don’t believe it,” Draunidalo said.” When (Feather River) coach (Brent) Stevens told be about it on my birthday, I was thinking it was one of two things. I thought it was an offer from someone or Kobe Bryant making a visit to Feather River. I just had a bad game, so I was waiting for Kobe to walk through the weight-room doors because there was no way I was getting an offer after how I played. It turned out it was Long Beach State with the offer. It is the best birthday present I could get. I kept thanking coach Stevens and all I wanted to do was call my Mom.”

Draunidalo will enter Long Beach State as a junior and have two years of eligibility left, beginning with the 2018-19 season.

Long Beach State is a Division I college and plays in the Big West Conference. The 49ers won the Big West Tournament last year and reached the NCAA Tournament with a 23-11 record. Long Beach State has struggled in the early portion of this season with a 2-10 record.

A majority of the roster of the 49ers are from California or Oregon and there are three seniors on this year’s team.

Long Beach State is coached by Jeff Cammon, who is in his first year as head coach. He was an assistant with the 49ers from 2008-14.

Stevens and Cammon have a relationship in the coaching ranks and that is how Draunidalo got the opportunity to play next year.

“I am a California girl at heart,” Draunidalo said. “So this is perfect for me to be going to Long Beach. I fell in love with the school. I am excited about the future. We are supposed to play USC, UCLA and Oregon next year. I never thought I would be playing on Oregon’s floor.”

Draunidalo currently plays for Feather River College in Quincy, Calif. In her first season with the Golden Eagles, Draunidalo was named the Freshman of the Year in the Golden Valley Conference.

She was also a first-team, all-league selection in the conference as well. She averaged 14.3 points a game and shot 43 percent from the field. Both numbers were among the best in the league.

The Feather River sophomore is having another strong campaign this season. She is the league-leader in 3-point shooting. It’s a big difference from high school where she shot few 3-pointers and played inside near the basket.

Draunidalo was a three-sport star at McDermitt in volleyball, basketball and track and field. She had the chance to play all three sports in college but chose basketball after a meeting with Stevens. However, at the time, she did not know Stevens was from Feather River.

“I wasn’t event thinking about playing basketball in college,” Draunidalo said. “I was set to go to Weber State and just go to college. It wasn’t until the regional and state tournament where Feather River and Lassen wanted me to play on.”

With the Feather River coach in attendance at the 2016 Northern 1A Regional Championship against Owyhee, Draunidalo scored 24 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and had five assists and four steals in the 76-38 title win over the rival Braves.

“He came up to me after the game to talk to me and told me I had a good game,” Draunidalo said during an interview in 2016 when she committed to Feather River.

McDermitt head coach Jaimi Wilkinson jokingly added that Draunidalo thought Stevens was a fan from Eureka to congratulate her. Feather River and Eureka wear the same green and gold colors. The Vandals are one of the biggest rivals of the Lady Bulldogs.

“He was all decked out in green and I was wondering why Eureka was here,” Draunidalo said. “It was cool when I found out who he was. We kept in touch and he came to the state game and set up a visit after that.”

In the year before Draunidalo played at Feather River, the Golden Eagles were 10-16.

Last year, Feather River finished at 12-15. This season, the Golden Eagles have improved to 10-5 overall and are ranked No. 19 in the state of California and No. 9 in northern California.

“It was as tough first season at Feather River,” Draunidalo said. “I had not experienced that much losing in basketball. I didn’t lose 15 times at McDermitt in four years. I just went to work to get better. The biggest thing I was told after the first year was to get quicker. I have worked hard to get quicker. We are playing a lot better this year. We are coming around as a team and it is fun. We want to make a big run through the playoffs.”

Draunidalo was back in McDermitt over the break before going to back to play, where Feather River is in San Jose this weekend.

“It was good to go back,” Draunidalo said. “It has gotten so small in the last couple years. I never thought I would be in this position that I am in. I want show that no matter how small of a town you come from, you can succeed. Hard work does pay off.”