Oh, brother! Versatile Dalayah Daniels becomes a force on the basketball court

Dalayah Daniels learned an important lesson from her big brother: Don't back down to anyone. Courtesy Dalayah Daniels

It happened at odd times and in odd places. Dalayah Daniels would get knocked down. A lot.

But this was no case of whodunit.

The youngest of eight children and one of seven sisters, Daniels had no problems identifying the culprit: It was her only brother, Dale Jr., a 22-year-old who played safety and wide receiver at Butte College.

"He liked to tackle me," Daniels said of her brother's good-natured and ultimately harmless physicality. "He would tackle me into a swimming pool or onto a bed or in a grocery store. He would just make sure there was something there to cushion the fall."

Daniels, who lives with her brother and dad, Dale Sr., in Seattle while her mom, Deborah Nagle, lives with her husband and two of her daughters in nearby Auburn, Washington, said she has taken lessons from the men and women in her life.

"From my sisters and my mother, I learned how to carry myself and how to be a lady," Daniels said. "My brother, he would pick on me, and I hated it at the time. But I learned not to take anything from anybody.

"My brother to this day will still take me to the gym, and we play one-on-one. He taught me a lot."

Daniels, 16, has grown into a basketball force at 6-foot-4 -- at least 1 inch taller than her brother.

A rising junior at Garfield (Seattle), Daniels is the No. 16 player in the espnW HoopGurlz Terrific 25 for the 2020 class. Last season, she averaged 14.3 points, 11.6 rebounds, 2.7 blocks, 2.6 steals and 1.8 assists for a 23-8 team.

Mo Hines, who has been Daniels' AAU coach with the Tree of Hope team since she was in sixth grade, said intensity is her best on-court attribute.

"It's kind of rare for a 6-4 kid to have such a high motor," Hines said. "She runs the floor like a deer. She cuts, slashes and attacks, and she can handle the ball."

Garfield legend

Daniels started out as a soccer player, but she found herself drawn to basketball partly because of what she heard.

Her father was a 6-foot-7 basketball forward for two years at a junior college and then two more as a starter at what was then an NAIA school, Central Washington.

Before that, he was a four-year starter at Garfield, helping the boys' basketball team win a state title in 1974.

And it was that last fact that resonated with his daughter.

"I would go to the store with my dad, and I would hear: 'Oh, my gosh, you're Dale Daniels! You played at Garfield,' " she said, mimicking a high-pitched and excited voice. "It was a constant reminder."

By the time she got to fifth grade, she had heard enough. She already had grown tall, and she had wanted to try this game of basketball that made her dad a local legend.

"When she told me, 'Daddy, I want to play basketball,' I bought a goal that very day and put it up in the street," said Dale Sr., 58. "Then me and my son went to work, teaching her how to use both hands, how to throw a chest pass, how to shoot a layup.

"We taught her the fundamentals. She's more ambidextrous than I was at her age."

Dale Sr. has been tough on his daughter at times. Once, during an AAU game, he yelled at Coach Hines to remove her from the game because she wasn't rebounding to his satisfaction.

Daniels said she learned a lesson about effort that day. Still, as she got better, she shied away from all the attention she was getting, but she said she's over that now. In fact, she was eager to transfer from Rainier Beach (Seattle) to Garfield in March of her freshman year.

Of the eight children in her family, she's the only one following in their dad's steps by attending Garfield.

"I'm the spitting image of my dad," Daniels said. "I'm glad to carry on his legacy."

Work to do

Daniels helped lead Garfield to a state runner-up finish last season as a sophomore and was named to the all-state team. She scored 20 points and had 15 rebounds in the title game, a 51-48 loss to Gig Harbor.

Hines said one area where Daniels can improve is her shot.

"Sometimes she rushes things because she plays so hard," Hines said. "I tell her: 'You have a second. Slow down.'

"She's working to improve her shooting mechanics."

But even while her shot is a work in progress, numerous college coaches love her potential. This is a player, after all, who has a center's size and a guard's skills.

Daniels has drawn more than 30 scholarship offers, including every school in the Pac-12. But, at the moment, she lists her five favorites as Texas, Connecticut, Stanford, Oregon and Oregon State, in no particular order.

"I am looking for a college team with a family atmosphere," said Daniels, who has a 3.87 GPA and is interested in studying psychology. "I have seven siblings who molded me into the person I am today, and I want that same type of family feeling in college."

A stable and savvy coaching staff also is important.

She and her Garfield teammates are currently without a head coach. And whenever that new person is hired, it will be Daniels' third head coach in three years.

"I want to make sure the coaching staff I pick will be at that school all four years I'm there," Daniels said. "I also want coaches who know how to use me.

"There are a lot of coaches who don't know how to use a 6-4 girl with skills. I want a coach who will not only put me in one position but put me everywhere."

Daniels gets that versatile game from her dad, and that "constant reminder" of his prowess follows her to school.

She sees her dad's picture just about every day because there's a team photo of that 1974 team just outside the Garfield gym.

Even so, Daniels figures to become the first one in her large family to play Division I athletics, a fact she doesn't feel the need to broadcast.

"I brag about my dad more than I brag about myself," she said. "I can't thank him and my entire family enough."