If it seems like Grace Daniels is running a little faster or trying a little harder, she’s playing catchup.
Daniels, a 5-foot-10-inch freshman guard for the Weatherford College Lady Coyotes, missed her entire senior season at Mansfield Legacy High School after tearing her ACL prior to the season. Now she’s playing catchup and doing a good job, according to Lady Coyotes Coach Bob McKinley.
“She sat out a year and a half. That’s a hard transition to come here and play with girls who had that experience of playing their senior season,” McKinley said. “It was hard for her at first, but she stayed after it and she’s shown a real toughness. She could have checked it in, but she was determined to play college ball.”
Daniels suffered the injury during open gym practice.
“I went up for a layup. I thought it was just a sprain, but I went to the doctor and he said it was torn,” she recalled. “It was really devastating. I had some (NCAA) D-I schools looking at me. Now, they are waiting to see how I do at the junior college level.”
They are likely impressed. At press time, Daniels was averaging more than eight points and almost five rebounds, along with an assist and almost two steals per game.
“She’s been playing really good,” McKinley said. “She’s been making up a lot of lost time since we started the season.”
With her future up in the air, Daniels was naturally concerned. Then, Mansfield ISD Athletic Director Philip O’Neal stepped in. Having formerly been the varsity boy’s basketball coach and athletic director in the Weatherford ISD, he is friends with McKinley. So he picked up the phone and gave his old buddy a call.
“Coach McKinley has told me how much he is enjoying Grace and how she continues to improve as the season progresses,” O’Neal said. “We in the athletics department could not be more proud of how Grace models the importance of a positive attitude.”
O’Neal saw more than a player in Daniels. He saw a young lady with strength and determination who deserved the chance to continue playing.
“Grace has an incredibly positive outlook no matter her circumstances. She dealt with her injury head-on and continued to be positive during her recovery,” he said. “Because of her attitude, she has continued to improve both physically and as a player. She exemplifies the kind of attitude you often see in a Mansfield athlete.”
Daniels took the opportunity to hone her game mentally while watching her teammates in the 2016-17 Legacy season. She observed and she learned.
“I was a captain also, so I gave pre-game talks and I organized the team bondings,” she said.
“I saw behind the scenes; what coaches really see. It made me appreciate the game more, and it made me even more eager to get back out there.”
Grace said she never doubted that she’d get the chance to play somewhere, but she’s glad it’s Weatherford College.
“I’m a religious person and I had faith. I prayed God would give me a chance, and then Bob called,” she said. “And Bob never pressured me to come here. I chose Weatherford because of Coach Bob. I liked the way he said he would push me to come back and he has.
“Also, it’s nice being here because my grandparents live in Fort Worth and they can come see me.”
Grace has been playing basketball since she was 6 years old. She tried running track and playing volleyball in junior high, but basketball remained her true sports love, and she definitely wants to play at a higher level.
She comes from an athletic family. Both of her parents played basketball and ran track. Her 17-year-old brother, Jeremiah, runs track for Legacy. Her 12-year-old sister, Esther, plays basketball and runs track, and her summer 400-meter relay team is among the best in the nation in her age group.
Daniels is also smart and active beyond the basketball court. At Legacy she was on the student council, a leader in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and on the athletic student council.
She is studying kinesiology, the scientific study of human or non-human body movement. She said her injury helped her decide.
“I’m interested in physical therapy and coaching,” she said.
And her advice to others working their way back from injury?
“Don’t give up. I know they all say that, but it’s true,” she said. “Do everything you’re told when in rehab, and work on your own, whatever it takes to come back.
“And don’t take anything for granted, no matter how much you love it or how good you are. Appreciate every moment you get to do it, whatever it is.”