February 21, 2017
Word of Mouth
Her tenacity on the backboards has been praised by teammates, staff and spectators. Linfield freshman Molly Danielson (Fr., Beaverton, Ore.) has blossomed into a sturdy – and steady – presence under the basket, providing the Wildcats with both rebounding and scoring in a starting role.
Prior to committing to the Wildcats basketball program, Danielson, a Beaverton native, was torn between attending Linfield or Northwest Conference rival Pacific Lutheran University.
Several external factors prompted Danielson to stay in the Beaver state. Emily Keagbine, Danielson's high school softball and basketball coach and a longtime family friend, spoke highly of Linfield's academic excellence and dedication to athletics. Keagbine knew Linfield from first-hand experience as a member of the softball program's 2011 national championship team.
“I just told Molly how much I loved Linfield and how much of an impact the athletics and community made on my life,” says Keagbine. “The academics are awesome.”
While a senior in high school, Doug and Melinda Mannen, the parents of high school teammate Noelle Mannen, introduced Danielson to Linfield coach Casey Bunn-Wilson. A visit to McMinnville to learn about the Wildcat basketball program solidified Danielson's decision and a commitment to the cardinal and purple followed soon after.
“I really loved the academic side of Linfield and Casey made me want to be part of the basketball program,” says Danielson.
Observing the women's team during practice also factored in her institutional decision. “The entire team impacted me. Quincey (Gibson) was a big influence on why I came to Linfield. She was so intense. I wanted a leader who is focused and wants to win. And someone who also cares about you at the same time,” she says. “It's the best choice I've made. The whole aspect at Linfield; the academics, the people, the sports, I love it.”
Danielson has slowly matured over the course of her debut season, leading the team in rebounds per game with 5.6 and ranking third in scoring at 9.2 points per game.
“It was really hard at the beginning in terms of defense. I was more of a zone player on defense, so I've learned a lot this year defensively. The coaches and players really believed in me. When I took the starting spot, I think they all trusted me in that position; it was really encouraging. They supported me throughout the whole process,” says Danielson.
Fellow forward Annalise Beshears (Sr., Beaverton, Ore.) has been impressed by Danielson's maturity as a leader. Whether it's her high work ethic, constant encouragement or uncanny rebounding instinct, all aspects of Danielson's game have evolved.
“She has become more of a leader, especially vocally, and is not afraid to take that difficult elbow jumper with a hand in her face or to battle inside with a girl who outweighs her by 50 pounds,” says Beshears.
“It has been really fun to watch her progress this season.”
Adds Keagbine, “Molly is one of the most inspiring and uplifting people, even if she's having the worst game. You wouldn't even know it because she's so happy for her teammates, something that a coach wants in all their players. She's an all-around athlete.”
Danielson's technical work with Bunn-Wilson and assistant coach Emily Gray has turned the center into an aggressive shot taker and a force under the basket. Her teammates, especially the four seniors, have been a substantial influence on the freshman's intellectual and physical development.
“For basketball, Casey cares about how the woman develops and how I am going to mature going into the adult world. Not only does she care about basketball, but she cares about my own health and emotions and my all-around personality,” says Danielson.
Danielson's participation in college sports extends beyond basketball. The management major will also compete in the discus and shot put events for Linfield's track and field team. She expects her second semester of college to level off a little, knowing now how to manage her time much better than the first.
“It was a struggle balancing academics and basketball, and learning how much I needed to study for what professor. Now I know how to be a student. I know how to time manage better and I'm excited to see how it'll impact my grades and well-being,” says Danielson.
With the amount of basketball reps and first-team experience that she has received as a freshman, the ceiling for growth is high for this young Wildcat.
– Rhys Lendio '17