CHESANING — Chesaning senior guard Haylei Drope is quick off the dribble, quick on her feet and aggressive on defense.
Usually, she’s not the biggest, tallest or maybe most talented player on the court. But she plays the game with emotion and intensity, according to Chesaning coach Ryan Ferry.
“She definitely is our spark plug,” he said. “Her energy is contagious. She’s constantly hustling. She does what it takes — whatever it takes — to get us where we need to be. A great defensive player, she’s a hustler.”
Drope, a four-year varsity player, has been named “Miss Hustle” three years in a row by Chesaning coaches and has also won the team’s “Queen of Defense” award.
Drope credits her grandfather, Verlin Drope, for getting her started in basketball. He still attends all of her games.
“I think my biggest memory of grandpa when playing basketball is just we would always be shooting hoops in the front yard and him making me shoot a little lay-up with my left hand,” Drope said. “He was really crucial in my beginning stages of development.”
Drope is averaging 7.1,points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 1.9 assists for Chesaning (10-1, 8-1 Mid-Michigan Activities Conference). She also leads the team in free throws made, shooting 76 percent from the free-throw line (19 of 25).
Balance has been a big part of the Indians’ success so far, as no player is averaging more than eight points per game. Three players — Sidnee Struck, Drope and Jordyn Bishop — are all averaging around seven points per game, and the team is relying on experience and defense to get the job done.
“Everybody is a superstar on our team — that’s the way we like to look at it,” Drope said. “I don’t really care about the stats.
“Most teams, they are rotating five or six players. We can rotate all 12 players and everyone puts in valuable minutes. There’s nobody outshining anybody else … We are big on defense. You come to one of our practices and you’ll see us spending an hour and a half — almost the whole practice — on defense.”
Chesaning’s lone loss came Dec. 20 to No. 3-ranked Byron, a 48-32 setback. The Eagles (11-0, 9-0 MMAC) will host Chesaning Friday in a rematch.
“That was the worst game we played,” Drope said. “But we’re looking forward to playing them again.”
Chesaning has one last tuneup in a nonconference matchup Tuesday at Shepherd before playing the Eagles in the game that will likely decide the league championship. All other MMAC schools have at least four conference losses.
Drope will play her fourth year of varsity softball as a shortsthop in the spring. She batted .446 in 2019 as Chesaning won MMAC and district championships.
The Indians nearly knocked off Millington in the regional semifinals before losing 4-3 in eight innings. Chesaning led 3-0 but Millington came back to score twice in the sixth, once in the seventh and once in the eighth. The Cardinals ended up winning the Division 3 state title, 8-0 over Schoolcraft.
Chesaning returns several players from that 27-4 squad, including All-Area Argus-Press Player of the Year, pitcher Taylor Gross.
“Taylor is amazing,” Drope said. “I grew up catching for her so she’s my neighbor … We’re looking to go all the way this year in softball, really.”
Drope said she likes being where the action is — at shortstop.
“What I like best about playing shortstop is most of the time, the balls are on the ground,” Drope said. “And everything comes to you really fast. I usually don’t have much time to think about it. And that’s usually my biggest downfall in sports is that I think about it too much.”
Drope also played two years on the boys soccer team at Chesaning, garnering Most Improved Player honors as a midfielder.
Drope has been accepted into the honors program at Central Michigan University. She plans to major in finance or management and maintains a 3.97 GPA. She is a member of the National Honor Society, president of the Student Council and Treasurer of the senior class at Chesaning.
“I’m going to try out for either basketball or soccer (in college),” Drope said. “Honestly, I’d like to walk on in any sport.”