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Athlete Worth Watching: Maddie McDaniel

Feb 01, 2016 02:07PM ● By Cate Reynolds
By Tom Worgo

Severn School // Basketball, Lacrosse

Not many athletes are gifted enough to make the choice that Severn School senior Maddie McDaniel did. Days after leading the Admirals to the 2014 Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland B Conference basketball championship, Loyola University Maryland offered McDaniel a scholarship.

Yet she turned down the opportunity to play hoops in hopes of earning a similar offer for lacrosse, which is her favorite sport. Being patient turned out to be a great plan, considering the Severna Park resident did eventually receive a lacrosse scholarship to James Madison University.

“It really came down to me loving the sport more,” says McDaniel, who earned Under Armour All-America honors after her junior season. “It was a really hard decision for me. When I tell all my teachers at school I am committed to play lacrosse, they are all in shock. All they hear about me at school is playing basketball.”

No wonder people think she’s more of a basketball-oriented athlete. After all, McDaniel has a legitimate shot at finishing as Severn’s all-time leading scorer. The 6-foot center entered the 2015–16 season with 1,264 points, trailing Sarah Meisenberg, a Division III All-American at Franklin & Marshall College, who holds the record with 1,764 points.

“Breaking the record is something I would really like to do,” McDaniel says.  “It would be awesome.”

McDaniel can do more than score a lot of points. She’s also tenacious rebounder who gets up and down the court like a speedy point guard. “She is a rare player,” Severn Girls Basketball Coach Chuck Miller says. “She often leads our fast break. She could play Division I. She can do it at both ends of the floor.”

Miller says the 17-year-old McDaniel is one of the smartest players he has coached in more than two decades of running girls basketball teams. “She anticipates the other team’s next pass,” he says. “I find in girls basketball, it’s not really creative individually. Players are not able to clear themselves for a pass or a shot. Maddie is able to do those things. She is very instinctive.”

She put together a stellar junior year, averaging 20.8 points and 13.3 rebounds per game to earn All-County and All-Conference honors.

McDaniel, who started playing basketball in fifth grade, has been that good every year in high school, averaging double digits in points and rebounds in each of her first three seasons. “In all the years I have been coaching, I have never seen anybody at our level that has done that,” Miller says. “She is really strong and has very good hands. She has a great basketball I.Q. and court sense.”

McDaniel, who carries a 3.3 grade point average and wants to start a business for kids with learning disabilities after college, also dominates on the lacrosse field. She chose James Madison over offers from the Naval Academy, the University of Oregon, and Jacksonville University in Florida.

“The team is a lot like a family at James Madison,” McDaniel says. “They also had that big-school feel that I like, and it wasn’t too far away from home. It incorporated all the things I was looking for.”

McDaniel will be starting as an attacker for Severn for the fourth straight season and boasts 75 career goals. She scored 39 goals and dished out nine assists during her junior season while winning a whopping 132 draw controls by using her size to her advantage to help the Admirals control things offensively.

“One of my biggest strengths is definitely face-offs, because I can grab the ball right out of the air,” says McDaniel, who plays the sport year-round for Annapolis-based Maryland United Lacrosse Club.

Severn Girls Lacrosse Coach Erin McCarthy says McDaniel’s ability to win draws is invaluable.

“I know other teams are a little discouraged because they have to go up against her for draws,” McCarthy says. “She is a unique asset to our team. Winning that many draws (132) is ridiculous. That’s about the number I did in my entire college career and it’s still a record at Salisbury (University).”   

Miller recalls watching McDaniel play sports at Severn while she was in middle school, saying that she didn’t look like a future star athlete. “When she was a little girl, she was really awkward and a bit clumsy,” he explains. “I wondered what kind of athlete she was.”

  Now, Miller and a whole lot of other folks have watched McDaniel’s talent emerge in a big way.