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The Front Row with MARK NELKE June 6, 2010

| June 6, 2010 9:00 PM

Moving to point guard this season was an adjustment for Coeur d'Alene High senior Dayna Drager, but it's not like she's never been in the spotlight before.

She's played the piano for 11 years, and plays in piano recitals where it's just her, the piano, and hundreds of people with their eyes on her. She's also played cello since the fifth grade, mostly in the school orchestra.

"For piano recitals I get super nervous," Drager said. "It's one time a year and it's in front of people and it's just you, and you have to play something by memory."

And then there's her famous grandpa, John, retired coach of pretty much everything at Mullan High, who coached Dayna in AAU ball and, apparently, still sports a mean jump shot.

"He's like unbeatable in H-O-R-S-E," Dayna says.

The 5-foot-9 Drager, who helped Coeur d'Alene High win three straight state 5A championships in girls basketball, will try to help lead the Region team to victory for the second straight year at the Jack Blair Memorial Girls All-Star Basketball Classic on Monday at 7:30 p.m. at University High in Spokane.

Drager played in last year's game when the Region team, comprised of players from North Idaho and rural Eastern Washington, beat the Metro team, consisting of players from the Greater Spokane League, for the first time in the game's 16-year history.

"It's more of a fun game, but we all look at it competitively," said Drager, who will play at the College of Idaho, an NAIA school in Caldwell, next season. "I remember in sixth grade playing those girls and they ALWAYS beat us. They beat us in AAU basketball, all the way through high school."

DRAGER BEGAN her Coeur d'Alene High career coming off the bench as a rebounder and a defender. She then became more of a driver and a shooter from the wing.

Then last summer, when a couple of other prospects at point guard didn't pan out, Drager found herself running the offense. She played the point most of this season, moving to the wing later in the season as a couple of the younger players became more comfortable at the point.

"Probably until this year I would not have been comfortable at the point, but this year definitely helped me," Drager said. "It was a great learning experience, especially for next year. It helped me to play college basketball when you can handle the ball better."

Drager picked College of Idaho because she wanted to continue her basketball career, and she also wants to go into pre-med. She also considered Carroll College, as well as walking on at Idaho.

She sports a 4.1 GPA, taking IB and AP courses such as IB English, honors physics and AP calculus.

Drager ran the 400 meters in track, and also ran cross country her last two years in high school. She said she ran cross country mostly to get in shape for basketball, but she must like it a little better than that because she trains with schoolmate Kinsey Gomez, perhaps the state's best female distance runner. And Drager plans to run a half-marathon in Seattle on June 26.

DRAGER'S PARENTS, Mike and Connie, have music backgrounds, which explains Dayna's interest in the piano and cello.

As for athletics, it probably didn't hurt, when she was a little girl, riding on the Mullan football team bus, driven by her grandpa John, the coach, or going to one of his practices with the Tigers boys basketball team.

"He's been a great influence," Dayna says of her grandpa, now retired and a fixture at her games and meets. "He always offers to come over and shoot with me. I think I've only beat him once in a game of H-O-R-S-E."

Dayna admits she hasn't played a whole lot of basketball since the high school season ended, aside from shooting in the back yard, with no AAU team to play for this spring. Her grandpa, who along with her dad coached her throughout AAU ball, and whose passion rubbed off on her, often offers to come over from Osburn and shoot with her.

As long as he doesn't talk her into a game of H-O-R-S-E.

Mark Nelke is sports editor of The Press. He can be reached at 664-8176, Ext. 2019, or via e-mail at mnelke@cdapress.com.

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