Throughout the summer, USA TODAY High School Sports has published a series called “60 for ’16” highlighting 60 members of the Class of 2016 who we will be watching in the coming 12 months. The final 20 athletes will be presented in order from No. 20 to No. 1 over four weeks. The athletes were selected by the USA TODAY HSS staff.
Name: Crystal Dangerfield
School: Blackman (Murfreesboro, Tenn.)
Sport: Girls basketball
Position: Point guard
Dangerfield’s high school sports resume is so complete, it’s hard to imagine the Connecticut commit has another year of high school.
She’s won championships at every level she’s played at, from middle school to high school to USA Basketball.
“I think I can lead by controlling tempo and with my speed,” Dangerfield said. “I’m quicker than most players, so they have to find a different gear to react.”
The 17-year-old was the youngest player on Team USA’s U19 team that won the World Championship last month, defeating Russia on its home court for the gold as Dangerfield led the U.S squad with five assists. It was her second gold medal in international play as she was on the winning team for Team USA in FIBA Americas U16 Championship in 2013.
Napheesa Collier, a U19 teammate who will be a freshman at Connecticut this fall, said Dangerfield doesn’t let others outwork her.
“I think her greatest strength (as a teammate) is how hard she works,” Collier said. “She’s the kind of person who will push you every day in practice and that really helps a team get better.”
Blackman girls basketball coach Jessica Jackson said Dangerfield works hard, even when others aren’t watching.
“I would say the thing that separates her from most high school athletes, is her work ethic,” Jackson said. “I’ll walk in the gym on Sunday afternoon and I’ll hear the ball bouncing and I don’t even have to look to see who’s playing, because it’s her. She just does it because she’s competitive.”
Last season, as a junior, Dangerfield averaged 15.5 points and 5.5 assists to lead Blackman to its second consecutive state Tennessee AAA title. In the state title game, she scored a team-high 18 points in a 58-54 double-overtime defeat of crosstown rival Oakland. Her sophomore year, she helped lead Blackman to an unbeaten record and the season-ending No. 1 spot in the Super 25 girls basketball rankings.
Former Blackman girls basketball coach and current Truett-McConnell College women’s basketball coach Chad Hibdon said Dangerfield’s mentality makes her a good point guard.
“She’s always team first,” Hibdon said. “She’s never been an individual who looked for attention for herself. She’s more concerned about winning than any personal accolades. She’s one who has a big heart and loves to be a great teammate and make her team better.”
Dangerfield began playing basketball when she was five and has played organized basketball since she was seven.
“She’s always played up with older kids, even when she was 7 or 8 and playing with the boys at the Boys and Girls Club,” said her mother, Davonna Dangerfield. “We’ve put her in different situations where she’s had to push herself and learn how to get along with everyone.”
“That’s just something I’ve learned as a life lesson,” Dangerfield said. “You can’t always have things go your way. You have to be able to adapt.”
Like Dawn Staley, her coach on the U19 team, the 5-foot-6 Dangerfield is an under-sized point guard who doesn’t see her lack of height as a big disadvantage.
“I’ve never said that I am short,” Dangerfield said. “I don’t see it that way. No, I feel like I’m looking everybody in the eye.”
Blackman will be missing Hibdon and a few starters next season, including four Division I signees, so it will be a challenge for Lady Blaze to three-peat, but Dangerfield knows what it takes for a team to win.
“Great coaching and players who are willing to listen and not just to the coach, but to their point guard and other players,” she said.
“She is a verbal leader and that’s something she’s gotten better at,” Jackson said. “She’s not an extremely vocal person. She’s not a real rah-rah, but she leads so much by her example, that when she does talk, people listen. Now, she is the type of players, when she needs to lead, she’ll step up and do it. She knows that this year is vital because we’re so young and don’t have a lot of experience.”