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Dressler family bonds over basketball

Friday, December 11, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CST
Missouri forward Mark Dressler attempts to block a pass from Kansas guard Darnell Valentine in the Tigers' Big Eight postseason tournament semifinal loss to the Jayhawks on March 5, 1980.

COLUMBIA — Hannah Dressler’s first memory about playing basketball involves her whole family. Beginning when she was just 5 years old, she and her older brother and sister would lay down head-to-toe on their backs on their living room floor. One by one, each child would try to shoot the ball backward so the person behind them could catch it.  At the end of the line, they would switch direction and shoot the ball forward. They did this back and forth over and over again throughout their childhood.

Her father, Mark Dressler, played basketball at Missouri from 1978 to 1983 with a legendary team that won the Big 8 twice and was ranked No. 1 in the nation in 1981. Under coach Norm Stewart, Dressler played with Missouri greats such as Ricky Frazier, Steve Stipanovich, Jon Sundvold and Larry Drew. 

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Like his own children, Mark Dressler picked up basketball from his family. His older brothers played at Tulane University and Meramac Community College in St. Louis, which inspired him to pursue the sport at DeSmet High School in St. Louis and then at Missouri. 

After marrying Jennifer Dillard, a Columbia native he met at MU, they opted to raise a family in town rather than St. Louis because, according to Mark Dressler, “The boss said 'We’re staying here.'” Unlike the rest of her family, Jennifer Dressler never knew much about basketball growing up and was a member of Marching Mizzou. Now, she attends as many of her children’s games as possible and is an avid NBA fan.

Mark Dressler began instilling the passion for basketball that he learned from his brothers into his own children from a young age with that floor drill. 

“I was teaching my oldest daughter how to practice shooting laying on your back and then the other kids would come in the room and go ‘I want to do it, Dad, I want to do it too,’” he said.  “… It wasn’t like, ‘You’re going to do this.’ They saw someone else doing it, so they wanted to do it and be involved.”

Despite their early introduction to the sport, Mark Dressler never forced his children to play basketball competitively. But he was happy when they decided to pick it up.

"I think sport is a great way of building character and keeps you out of trouble and gives you something to do. I mean they played baseball, and she (Hannah) still plays soccer and stuff," Mark Dressler said. "… So it’s not like ‘You’re going to play basketball or else,’ and I’ve always said if they choose not to do it, that’s fine with me as well, but I enjoy it. I enjoy watching them.”

All three children take after their father and are tall, powerful forward and center players. Hannah Dressler’s family and teammates often refer to her as “The Beast” while Ashley Dressler’s nicknames involved more intimidating forms of her first name like “Crash” and “Mash.” Hannah Dressler said playing with her siblings helped her become more of a physical player.

“I remember me and my brother or me and my sister would play, and we’re just all aggressive, so it would normally happen that I would get hit in the face with an elbow or something or get knocked over,” she said. “I think it’s probably made me tougher though.”

Hannah Dressler is now playing basketball as a freshman at Rock Bridge, Jordan Dressler is a freshman playing at the University of Toledo, and Ashley Dressler is a redshirt sophomore playing at McKendree University. Ashley Dressler has played in 10 of her team’s 12 games this season, averaging three points per game. Jordan Dressler has started in seven of his nine games, scoring 7.4 points per game.

In addition to playing on multiple recreational and competitive basketball teams, Jennifer Dressler said that the children also helped better each other through pick-up games at home.

“I can’t tell you how many times I would look out the kitchen window and one of them would come in and say, ‘Hannah, come shoot with me,’ and Jordan was like double her size swatting her shot, and I think she really helped them and they really helped her with her defense,” she said.

According to the siblings, even though they enjoy playing with each other, there is some sibling rivalry in their relationships.

“We’d always play in the backyard, H-O-R-S-E or whatever, or games to 100, just to prove to see who was better, and sometimes it got a little out of hand and we’d fight and one of us would run inside,” Jordan Dressler said. “It’s definitely a competitive family when everyone plays basketball.”

However, Ashley Dressler said the competition has helped them bond.

“It’s definitely more motivational when you see your brother or sister doing good, and your dad is obviously giving you motivation,” Ashley Dressler said. “It makes you want to be better, and it's also kind of sibling rivalry because you kind of want to be the best. … There’s times when the sibling rivalry would get in the way, but we’d go to games together and go see one or the other play, and it’s always something to talk about or watch on TV, and it has drawn us closer together and become a family sport.”

It was sometimes hard  for Jordan Dressler to have a father who knew so much about basketball. However, he acknowledged that the tips Mark Dressler gave the siblings after games were usually helpful.

"It was frustrating at times because it always felt like you were doing something wrong, and he acted like he knew everything when, in reality, he probably did know more, and we just didn’t accept it,” Jordan Dressler said. “Looking back on it, he was probably right most of the time.”

Mark Dressler said that during the season, he tries to leave coaching to the actual coach as much as possible, but he likes to go over plays and games with his children.

“I think when we review a game, we don’t spend a lot of time on it. But I say a few things I saw, and most of my kids don’t like to hear that,” he said. “But, we don’t do that that often. I just try and give some pointers from what I see. … I’m sure I have high expectations because I know what it takes, and there’s a mental side to the game, too, and I think it’s very important to talk about different game situations.”

Despite the occasional critique, Hannah Dressler said she does not think there is a bad side to having a father that knows a lot about the sport.

“It’s good when you have a problem in the basketball sense,” she said. “He knows the answer where other parents might be like ‘I don’t know’ because they’ve never played or been in that situation and can’t answer.  If I go to him, I know he can help and will help me.”

Rock Bridge girls basketball coach Jill Nagel has known the Dressler family ever since she first moved to Columbia to coach five years ago. Not only has she coached both Ashley and Hannah Dressler, the sisters have also babysat her son at their church’s nursery school.  Nagel said the family benefits from having a father who is knowledgeable about basketball.

“Anytime you play a team sport, and you’ve kind of what I like to say, been in the trenches before, well, that’s obviously a big help because he’s had good games and bad games and good practices and bad practices, so he knows that himself,” she said. “… I know he’s teaching them X’s and O’s as well, but just having gone through the experience of the ups and downs of team sports helps.”

With two children in college, Mark and Jennifer Dressler have to work harder to keep up with all of their children’s basketball games.  Ashley Dressler’s college is two hours away, so her parents frequently travel to see her, and she also plays in Columbia twice a season against Stephens and Columbia College. Since Jordan Dressler’s school is over nine hours away, Jennifer Dressler signed up to watch games online on a Web site. However, she set a goal that one parent will travel to watch him play at least once a month.

“It means a lot because it shows that they want to be involved in my basketball still, and they care enough to drive all that way to just come up for one game,” Jordan Dressler said. “It means a lot, and my aunt and uncle also came up too, and it’s nice that they take time out of their busy schedule to see me."

With two siblings away at college, Hannah Dressler is starting to think of her own future. As the only freshman playing for Rock Bridge’s varsity team, she feels some pressure to always play well.

“All the girls are really nice to me, but you always have that sense of nervousness because you don’t want to do something wrong and have the whole team look down on you for it,” she said. “I know they probably wouldn’t because we’re a family, but you don’t want to be that person because you’re a freshman and you could be bumped down.”

Hannah Dressler’s dream is to play at North Carolina or to follow in her father’s footsteps and play for Missouri. She said that she knows if she works hard enough, she could play at a Division I school. Nagel agrees.

“I think Hannah has got a great future just like Ashley does,” she said. “She plays a lot of summer ball and gets a lot of exposure that way and as well as at the high school level. … It’s kind of hard to tell with her just being a freshman. She has a extreme upside, and I know that there’s a lot of colleges that are already looking at her and they’re bigger colleges, so it’ll be interesting to see how she progresses.”

Hannah Dressler and the Rock Bridge girls basketball team will take on Layfayette at 7:30 Monday at Rock Bridge High School.


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