Sydney Driggs is perseverance personified. What some think of as a nightmare is a normal day for the 19-year-old.
Every day, Orange Coast College’s women’s basketball star experiences sharp pain from her knees to her spine from activities as simple as sitting down and walking.
She would get ice after every practice and game, with hours of regular physical therapy dedicated to heat and flexion exercises, taking steroidal and epidural injections to alleviate the pain caused by two herniated disks in her spine.
“I’ve had three (injections) over the last two months, but other than that I do a lot of physical therapy in the training room which helped me get through the season.” Driggs said.
In 2018, despite her injuries, the shooting guard and forward led her team in scoring, posting 18.8 points and 4.8 rebounds per game this season, connecting on 37.7 percent of her attempts from three-point range.
Her stat line ranks in the top two overall and in the top five in the Orange Empire Conference for both three-point percentage and scoring, recently earning a first-team, All-OEC team selection. This was her final season as a basketball player.
“Knowing it’s my last year playing, basketball is my passion and I want to finish off strong, so whether before, during or after games I work with the trainers, whatever keeps me going,” Driggs said before her final game.
Her smooth jump shot form and abilities as a spot up shooter caught the eye of her coaches right away.
“She has a textbook jump shot,” OCC women’s basketball coach Mike Thornton said. “It’s the best I’ve ever worked with mechanically, and she’s our number one scoring option so we try to get her the ball as much as we can.”
Although she possessed more than enough ability on the court, keeping her there was the real challenge. Faced with daily pain, mental fortitude was key throughout her career.
To help overcome obstacles throughout the season, Driggs appealed to the mindset of her favorite player, basketball legend Kobe Bryant, to reinforce her approach.
“The heart and mentality of Kobe Bryant kept me pushing myself,” Driggs said. “He had a never quit attitude, no excuses and believed in constantly working hard for what you deserve, and I believe in that.”
She could have given up after the first herniated disk she suffered at the end of high school, or the second in her sophomore season. After all the stretching exercises, hours of icing and countless chiropractor visits, the game was taking its toll.
But she never quit.
Born and raised in Minnesota, she grew up a fan of Minnesota sports teams as they were a regular part of her family. She began to travel playing basketball at the age of six. Her family later moved to Southern California.
“My dad was really into sports and the first one to introduce me to basketball,” Driggs said. “I’m close with my family so him knowing my potential and constantly pushing me to be the best I can be. Also, the rest of my family’s love and support kept pushing me.”
While being away from her family led to homesickness, basketball made anywhere feel like home to her.
Whether bonding with Thornton over their shared Midwestern roots and love for sports or forging lasting friendships with her teammates, she has found a second family.
Since joining the OCC women’s basketball team two years ago, she was a solid sixth player in the rotation as a freshman. With only three players returning from last season, in her sophomore season she has relished a new role as leader on and off the court.
Her teammates feed off her commitment to being better both as a player and leader, often leading by example.
Fellow OCC guard, 21-year-old sophomore and liberal arts major Jenna Miramontez, has a firsthand account of her teammate’s character throughout the years.
“She’s just the general out there. She was our rock and support system whether it was a good or bad game,” Miramontez said. “Whenever we needed a basket, or even off the court she would be willing to help her teammates with any problems.”
Driggs plans on finishing her education at Concordia University in St. Paul, Minn., and getting her masters in sports psychology. Dreams of working with a professional sports team or even returning to basketball in a leadership role as a coach are slowly becoming reality.
While the fear of uncertainty sometimes crosses her mind, the excitement in going back to Minnesota and starting her new journey pushes her forward.
Through her struggle, Driggs is more than prepared for life without the game she has called her own for over ten years.
“I think her drive, determination and will to keep pushing stick out. Because of that she’ll do great going forward no matter what path she takes,” Miramontez said. “She’s a great person and a great friend. I wouldn’t want to play alongside anyone else for my final season.”