Living on a horse farm in Hebron helped Brittany DeWell learn to rise early, work hard and stay late long before she ever shot a basketball.
Her high school coach, Candy Wilson, was also a middle school teacher who mentored DeWell and taught her concepts such as teamwork, loyalty and hustle well before their prep days together at Boone Grove.
Injuries gave her an opportunity to play significant minutes for one season alongside IU Northwest’s greatest player ever, and DeWell, thanks to her long-established virtues, has never let a moment pass without playing her absolute best.
Halfway through her career, DeWell is still practicing as if she were still that freshman getting a chance to impress the coaches.
“I always say, ‘Practice how you wanna play,’” DeWell said. “You’re not going to play and win if you’re doing everything lazily and at half speed.”
At IUN practices, the junior starting point guard leads all of the sprints, pushes hardest during defensive drills and is the first in line for everything.
That spirit was what impressed IUN coach Ryan Shelton when DeWell was at Boone Grove and mulling offers from bigger schools that were farther away.
“We needed somebody who not only was going to play a lot but who did everything the right way,” Shelton said. “She continues to lead by example every day with her attitude. Once Brittany sets the tone, if you’re not going hard, it’s going to be obvious you’re not doing your job.
“She’s also a great defender. There’s not a better on-ball defender in the country in terms of her size and that position.”
The season started earlier this week, and the 5-foot-10 DeWell is a captain for a third straight campaign. She and the RedHawks have enjoyed some high highs and want to make last season’s letdown the exception, not the rule.
Last season DeWell was a sophomore in the first season without scoring/rebounding/blocking juggernaut Sharon Houston. At this time last year the RedHawks were ranked nationally in the NAIA poll for the first time in program history following back-to-back appearances in the national tournament by virtue of winning the Association of Independent Institutions (AII) conference tournament.
They went 13-17 last season and lost the conference tournament on a buzzer-beater.
Adding some new talent has helped the RedHawks draw a tie in the preseason poll as the AII favorite.
DeWell will need to score more, according to her coach, but she’ll also pass to Megan Holland, who led the NAIA in field goal percentage (67.6) last season and led the RedHawks in scoring (14.5 ppg) and rebounding (8.5 rpg).
“Brittany doesn’t care about numbers or stats or shots,” Shelton said. “She only cares about winning. That’s the type of players we recruit here. They care about success as students but care more about the team than individual accolades and awards.”
An NAIA school rarely gets a shot to play, let alone beat, a Division I team, but there was DeWell her freshman year, hitting the game-winning free throw with three seconds left as the RedHawks beat Chicago State on the South Side of the city.
That win set the school mark for consecutive victories and was part of a win streak that reached 16. The season ended with a national tournament berth.
“That gave me something to work for,” DeWell said. “You knew you wanted to be that winning team and get there. It was a great experience.
“When (last season) ended, it should not have ended. For all returning players, it makes us want to fight harder to get there this year.”