By Kaleb Carter
It’s one thing to have a strong class of players leading a basketball program. Most programs can cite a strong class and project how good that group of players will be in the future.
It’s another thing entirely to have the type of player that looks poised to fuel long postseason runs, the likes of which Nazareth Academy should enjoy over the next three years.
Putting 6-1 sophomore Danielle Scully on the floor has the Roadrunners destined for great things right now, too.
“Individually I thought that I had to take over because last year wasn’t really a show-up year for me,” Scully said. “I felt like I had to score more and felt like as a team we had to bond better. I feel like that’s really been helping us win these games, the chemistry.”
Scully’s size at the wing position puts her at a distinct advantage, as does her vision and court IQ.
“She’s a big kid with a strong body,” Nazareth coach Ed Stritzel said. “She’s got a Division I body already, but she can handle it at guard. The problem other opposing coaches have, they put a big kid on her and she out-skills you. If you put a guard on her, she’s good at going to the post she can finish in the post. She can do so many things.”
That ability to handle the basketball — in the open court, in transition, with a defender on her, and in the post — means she’s a threat to score or distribute to one of the Roadrunners’ other threats. Fellow sophomores Olivia Austin (6-1 forward), Amalia Dray (5-8 guard), junior shooter Grace Carstensen (6-0) or senior guard/wing and University of Chicago commit Caroline Workman (6-0) all provide plenty of punch. That keeps defenses from focusing all of their attention on Scully.
While Scully could just be an active post player, that’s not enough for her. Handling the ball and diversifying her game in travel ball with Illinois Lady Lightning helped her gain more confidence controlling possession on the perimeter and off the dribble.
“I’m trying to focus more on not being stuck in the post because I’m one of the taller, bigger girls,” Scully said. “I’ve been working on being able to guard guards and being able to work the guard position and dribble up the floor… and of course shoot.”
A point of emphasis for Sculy, as far as the coaches are concerned, is defensively.
“We keep on her about getting better on the defensive end,” Stritzel said. “We keep telling her ‘Affect the game on both ends. We know you affect the game on offense.’”
In a 50-21 Brenda Whitesell Tournament title game victory over Sandburg, Stritzel said he saw the types of off-ball defense in terms of steals and help defense that could help take her all-around game to another level.
It’ll be a need for Nazareth, which has scheduled a daunting row of non-conference games. The Roadrunners host DeKalb County heavyweight Sycamore, which has size and a Division I commit in Faith Feuerbach. The Roadrunners also play Peoria Central Saturday at Fremd’s Chicagoland Invitational Showcase.
“I want to see us go into these games we have coming up, they’re very hard games and I want to see us take it on with confidence, not go in nervous because we know they’re good teams and I just want to see us destroy them,” Scully said.
Scully, satisfied after the tournament championship, still had her mind on something more.
She had a sly smile on her face when pondering the coming months
“It’s very likely that you will catch us downstate.”