Guard Danielle DeGagne of Brandon drives to the basket in a recent game for the North Dakota State University Bison. (AL GRILLO/NDSU)
Danielle DeGagne has been looked up to by plenty of young basketball stars in Brandon, and now she’s getting similar treatment in Fargo, N.D.
DeGagne became the first Brandonite to earn an NCAA Division I women’s basketball full-ride scholarship, inspiring local players like her new North Dakota State University Bison teammate Brittany Wiebe, who joined the team as a redshirt freshman this season.
Now in her fourth and final season, NDSU is looking to DeGagne for leadership and has named her one of the team’s four captains.
"In the past, we’ve always had a lot of seniors," the 5-foot-10 guard said. "This year I’m one of the seniors. It’s different to be one of those, but I’ve always tried to be a leader in some way by just communicating lots. It’s definitely different now being a senior and one of the leaders. It will be a good role and a challenge, that’s for sure."
DeGagne is trying to show the younger players what it takes to compete at the NCAA level and how to succeed in the classroom.
On the court, DeGagne has been leading by example, starting in eight of her team’s 10 games and sitting second on the squad with 11.2 points per game, 19 assists and 11 steals. She is also third in rebounds with 4.8 per contest.
The Bison have been injury-plagued so far, losing five players from the roster, including two of their six seniors. That’s part of the reason why North Dakota has a 3-7 record and why DeGagne believes things will get better as the season goes on.
"Our team is flowing nicely and we’re all getting used to working with each other because we have some new girls, obviously," she said. "It’s just been good to get a flow and work with those girls. They’re really great and our offence just works for everyone.
"You just focus on attacking and being aggressive and doing the little things right. Everyone’s just doing their part. It makes it easy on everyone that everyone’s contributing and doing what they do best."
In her final season, DeGagne is focused on trying to lead her team to an appearance in the NCAA national tournament. That won’t be easy as the Bison need to get healthy and win the Summit League conference tournament in March.
However, DeGagne has faith that her team can improve enough to reach nationals.
"We just have to keep chipping away and staying strong defensively and keep our energy up and do what we do best and not worry about the outcome and just focus on us," DeGagne said. "Just get better each day so when conference hits, we’re playing our best and controlling what we can control and doing what we can do."
With her focus squarely on this season, DeGagne hasn’t spent a lot of time thinking about her future.
She’s able to do that because she won’t graduate after this season. Instead, the former Crocus Plains standout will stay in school next season to finish her sports and recreation management major. She already has completed her major in human development in family science.
The good news for DeGagne is that it won’t cost her much to finish her education next year, even though her life as a university athlete will be over.
"(The school) will pay for that one too, so I’m very fortunate for that one," she said.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 18, 2012