Driving your 5-year-old daughter to school can be one of life's simple pleasures. Lamont Patterson saw it as a wasted opportunity, so he ditched the car and started walking Danielle Patterson 10 blocks to PS 65 Raymond York Elementary in Queens, New York. She dribbled the whole way. One block, she would use her left hand. The next block, it would be right-handed. Then she would try between-the-legs moves.
Father and daughter kept up that routine, which included the walk home from school, for about five years.
"He was just doing whatever he could to keep a ball in my hands," Patterson said. "I just went with the flow."
Today, Patterson is bouncing up the espnW HoopGurlz Super 60 for the 2017 class and is poised to be the next big star bursting out of the Big Apple.
A 16-year-old junior at Mary Louis Academy (Queens, New York), Patterson has catapulted from No. 57 all the way to 11th in the updated 2017 rankings, which were released Thursday. The 6-foot-3 forward averaged 22 points, nine rebounds, four assists and two blocks the past season, and it's easier to list who hasn't offered her a scholarship than to talk about which schools have asked for her signature.
"Everybody offered her, except for Baylor and Connecticut," Mary Louis coach JoAnn Pinnock said. "Baylor did a home visit with her, but their policy is not to offer during home visits."
Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma also was interested and came to see Patterson play during her sophomore season. Ultimately, though, Patterson narrowed her college search to four schools: Notre Dame, St. John's, Tennessee and Virginia.
Patterson grew up a Tennessee fan -- Candace Parker is her favorite player -- and St. John's is her hometown team. Patterson has visited St. John's and Virginia and plans to tour Notre Dame and Tennessee in the fall.
In the meantime, she has been invited to try out for the USA U18 team later this month in Colorado. She has been told she could play for the U17 team, if that is deemed a better fit.
Keith Gilchrist, who coaches Patterson on the New Jersey Sparks AAU club, likes her chances.
"She's a great athlete who can guard multiple positions," Gilchrist said. "She can defend post players, but she can also keep little guards in front of her."
That versatility is what her father has long envisioned.
Tall and talented
Patterson is the only child of 6-foot-2 Lamont and 5-foot-10 Diane. Both parents played high school basketball, and Diane is a former model.
When Danielle started playing ball at age 5, she was about a foot taller than the other girls.
"She looked like a female version of Shaquille O'Neal," Lamont said.
The coach of her first CYO program took note of the obvious visual and made Patterson the team's center. That's when Lamont, a Chicago Bulls fan, showed his daughter video of Scottie Pippen, the 6-foot-8 Hall of Fame forward with a versatile skill set.
"I said, 'OK, that's who I want to model my game after,'" said Patterson, who wears No. 33 in Pippen's honor.
When he saw that his daughter was serious about basketball, Lamont put a rim above the family garage and used chalk to draw a free throw line on a patch of cement. Through a kitchen window, Diane watched Danielle practice on that hoop every night until it got dark -- and beyond.
"The only light I had came from inside the house," Danielle said.
Patterson got so good that parents on rival AAU teams started to complain to referees and argue that Patterson couldn't possibly be so tall and so talented and be the same age as their daughters.
"I started taking her birth certificate to the games," Lamont said, "just in case."
When she was 11, Patterson made another video discovery rivaling that of Pippen. This time it was Parker.
"I was amazed," Patterson said.
Using Pippen and Parker as role models, Patterson has already scored more than 1,000 points in her high school career. She starred for Medgar Evans (Brooklyn, New York) as a freshman and sophomore before transferring last year to Mary Louis, an all-girls Catholic school that finished 18-8 the past season.
Pinnock, who has been at Mary Louis for a decade, including her time as an assistant coach, said Patterson is the most heavily recruited player in school history.
Coaches swarm in
In September, once coaches were allowed to make home visits, there was a steady parade.
"It was different," Patterson said. "After seeing these coaches watch me from the stands, now I had to talk to them."
As per the family's wishes, the home visits were done at the school, and Pinnock sat in on the meetings.
"I can pull the calendar out and show you that just about every single day, they were here," Pinnock said. "Ohio State, Virginia, Notre Dame, Tennessee, Wisconsin, North Carolina State, St. John's -- coaches came until they weren't allowed to come anymore."
Diane Patterson took notes during the visits and put them into a folder, and Danielle listened closely.
"She's very mature," Pinnock said of her star player.
Patterson's maturity is evident when the subject of Connecticut arises. The Huskies have won four straight national titles, and they cast a large shadow on the sport.
That fact was not lost on Patterson.
"I was very grateful when [Auriemma] came to see me play," Patterson said. "To see him sitting there, I was like, 'Wow, I have a national championship coach watching me.'"
Despite being starstruck at the time, Patterson said that if the Huskies were to make an offer now -- after she has already narrowed her list -- it would not be enough to sway her.
"I'm very comfortable with the four schools on my list," Patterson said. "Those four coaching staffs have known me for a while. St. John's has been watching me since the fifth grade. ... To just put a new school in the loop wouldn't be right."
Aside from being loyal, Patterson is smart. She has a 3.8 GPA and plans to major in sports management. After her playing days are over, she wants to be a coach. But that figures to be many years down the road.
Patterson has one more year of high school ball, and she's not concerned about the extra attention she will get from rival coaches who will game plan against her.
Blessed with a cool temperament, Patterson said she doesn't get nervous, and she is supremely confident.
Asked if she thinks she is the best player in New York, Patterson did not back down.
"I do," she said with true New York swagger. "I feel like I put a lot of work into my game. I'm not trying to sound any kind of way, but I do think I am."