By Scott M. Johnson Herald Writer
SEATTLE — The last time Danielle Love played a basketball game in this part of the Pacific Northwest, she was a nervous freshman who was just trying to find a role on the Oregon women’s basketball team. The Everett native and Cascade High School graduate scored three points in 21 minutes off the Ducks’ bench and has one specific memory from playing at the University of Washington last February.
“I remember I couldn’t hit a shot,” she said Tuesday. “But I had a lot of fun that game. A lot of my friends and family were there, and I could hear them cheering.”
This time around, Love isn’t expecting any nerves, nor is she in the mood for another overtime loss at UW.
The 6-foot-2 sophomore is now a starting post player for the running Ducks, and she’s approaching Thursday night’s game against the Huskies as a business trip.
“This year, it’s a lot more comfortable,” Love said.
That could be said for Love’s life both on and off the court. In addition to becoming a full-time starter and raising her points-per-game average from 3.0 to 6.9, Love has added a new roommate that sometimes brings out the maternal instinct in her.
Younger sister Devan, who graduated a year behind Danielle at Cascade High, is in Eugene attending classes at a community college while sharing an apartment with her big sis. Danielle loves having Devan around, even if the arrangement is only temporary.
“We’ve always been a really good support system for each other,” Danielle Love said, adding that her younger sister might be headed back up to this part of the country after the current term. “It’s good to have her here, just for someone to talk to. Even if she doesn’t have the answer, she’s here to listen. That’s been really good.”
Having Devan around has given Danielle a new role.
“I am big-time big sister-slash-mom,” she said Tuesday. “I’m so much like my mom. All the things that my mom got mad at her for, I will get mad at her for. Yes, I nag.”
On the court, Love has been filling a new role as well. She actually got her first start right after last year’s game at UW, stepping into the lineup at Washington State while scoring seven points, grabbing seven rebounds and adding three steals.
Since most of the Oregon frontcourt graduated, Love knew her role would only expand this season, and she put in extra time shooting at the gym to be ready. She also knew conditioning would be even more important as a starter in run-and-gun guru Paul Westhead’s system.
“I really like getting out and running,” she said. “We would always do that on the AAU teams I played with. I was always one of the tallest kids, and usually the biggest kids couldn’t really keep up with me. I use that to my advantage.”
Love has shown marked improvement in all aspects of her game, making statistical jumps in minutes (13.4 to 31.0 per game), points (3.0 to 6.9) and rebounding (2.9 to 5.8).
She’s still struggling to find consistency with her shot, much like Love was the last time she played at UW.
What she remembers most about that game was the 30 or so fans who came out to see her. Among them were some relatives who had never seen Love play a game in person.
She’s excited to see them again Thursday night, only this time she wants to put on a better show.
“It’s definitely more relaxed and confident in what I can do,” she said of her mindset this time around. “I’m more excited than anything, just to get home.”
Since her younger sister is planning on trying to get into UW, the next time Love plays at Hec Ed, Devan might be a Husky.
But older sister isn’t worried about her wearing purple for the game against the Ducks.
“The Ducks, for sure,” Danielle Love said when asked which team Devan might be supporting this time next year. “She’ll probably just have to wear a (green) hat, sit next to my parents and just pretend she’s not a UW student.”