As one of the taller girls in her freshman class, Danielle Lee’s physical education teacher suggested she try out for Cornelia Connelly High School’s basketball team. She made the squad and has found an unexpected love for the sport.
“I guess I love the adrenaline that comes with it and playing as a team rather than playing a sport that’s alone,” says Lee. “I really just love supporting my team and playing with them and passing the ball to them just to make that one shot.”
The 18-year-old senior is a four-year varsity player and three-year starter for the Koalas. Lee plays the post as well as center, and her role as captain brings motivation to her game.
“I really have to set a good example for them, what to do and what not to do,” says Lee of being a senior captain. “I like to be funny with them because it gets them to be more comfortable and less intimidated by the game and by the other players too…and just to be like a friend to them.”
Lee’s willingness and versatility has made her a key part of the Connelly’s basketball program during her time at the school.
“Danielle is a fierce competitor and is willing to learn anything we throw at her,” says Connelly head basketball coach, Scott Sangren. “She led our team in scoring and rebounding this year and has been a joy to coach these past four years. I know she will have a bright future ahead.”
Lee’s late start in the sport put her a bit behind the ball when it came to basic skills. But she didn’t let those deficiencies slow her down and remained committed to improving.
“Over the years, I did some practicing on the side by myself,” says Lee, “and that really helped me overcome those basic challenges I needed to play basketball.”
The Irvine resident is headed to Michigan in the fall where she will attend Hillsdale College and study Biology en route to becoming a physician assistant. While she has chosen not to continue her basketball career, the experience has given her plenty of skills that extend beyond the court.
“It’s definitely taught me how to work hard to achieve my goals in school and in my social life,” says Lee.
Lee cites her father as a significant role model, acknowledging his work ethic and generosity as traits she looks up to and aims to model. And her faith has been her anchor, both in sports and in life, giving Lee her sense of purpose.
“I definitely find strength in Christ,” says Lee. “I really look up to him and say, if he wasn’t [too tired] to die for us on the cross, then I should be able to finish this game and play my hardest.”