Sophomore Standout Carrying Out Her Legacy
When your last name is synonymous with Wyoming basketball, expectations can run pretty high. Luckily for Northwest College sophomore Dani McManamen, she more than meets those expectations on and off the court, thank you very much.
The younger sister of recentlygraduated University of Wyoming cager Jason McManamen, McManamen jokingly said she’s the one responsible for her sibling’s on-court success.
“I taught him everything he knows,” she said, laughing.
Born into a family of coaches and players, it was only natural that McManamen would find a ball in her hand at a young age. Her father Mike coached basketball in Lovell and “when we moved to Torrington, my dad continued to coach my brother, then started coaching me as well,” McManamen said. “I’ve just been playing for as long as I can remember. I was always watching my dad’s games, my brother’s games. I’ve just always been playing.”
Like most kids, McManamen was a multi-sport athlete — though basketball was always number one.
“I think maybe because it was such a big part of my family that basketball affected me the most,” she said. “And I just always loved being part of a team. Team sports are definitely my favorite.”
McManamen attended Southeast High School in Yoder, where, as a member of the Lady Cyclones basketball team, she played in back-to-back state championship games. Yoder fell to Lyman, 42-36, her junior year and to Pine Bluffs, 50-40, her senior year.
Bad luck in championship games notwithstanding, McManamen knew she wanted to continue to play after graduation; she just wanted to find the right fit for her game. NWC head coach Janis Beal knew the McManamens from their days in Lovell; Mike was actually Beal’s sixth-grade teacher.
“We grew up knowing her family,” Beal explained. “When she moved, and as soon as she got into high school it was like, I better keep an eye on her. With the relationship I had with her dad, I was able to reach out and talk with her.”
Beal had her sights on bringing McManamen back to the western part of the state, but NWC wasn’t the only Wyoming school showing interest.
“I was thinking about Laramie County Community College; they were just starting a program,” McManamen said. “The athletic director had been talking to me, but I came up and visited Northwest, and that was all it took. I knew I wanted to be here. Coach told me I could wait on making a decision, but I really wanted to sign.”
McManamen has no doubt she made the right decision.
“I’ve loved it. I’ve really enjoyed it more than I even expected I would,” she said. “It’s crazy how fast it’s gone by — a couple of more weeks and it’s sophomore night. I’m so glad I made the decision to come here.”
So is her coach.
“Dani is such a great kid. She’s one we’d like to keep around our program multiple years to be the example,” Beal said. “She’s just such a hard worker. She’s not a real loud person; she just quietly leads by example. She plays bigger than she is.”
To exemplify McManamen’s character, Beal recalled making a coaching decision last week that no player ever wants to hear.
“Dani’s basically started every game since she’s been here,” Beal said. “Last week against Casper, to kind of get everybody going, we completely changed starting lineups. She just said, ‘OK, if that’s what you need, let’s do it.’ She came off the bench and did a great job; she didn’t let that affect her. That shows what kind of a teammate she is.”
The Lady Trappers are 16-6 heading into the weekend, with a 4-2 conference record. McManamen is averaging 8.1 points per game and is second on the team in rebounds, averaging five a game. She’s fourth on the team in total points with 178. Big games remain on the schedule, and McManamen said this team is ready to finish strong.
“It’s really nice that we had so many sophomores return. We really know each other and have that chemistry,” she said. “The freshmen that came in have really stepped up right away. I feel like we have a lot of depth this year. Coach can put anyone in the game, and they will step up wherever we need them to. That’s been the biggest part of our team success.”
McManamen says it’s “awesome” playing for Beal. “I feel like she really cares about us, more than just as basketball players. It’s nice to have that relationship outside of basketball,” she said.
Asked what she’ll miss the most when the season is over, McManamen’s answer said it all.
“Everything,” she said, laughing. “I’ll miss my teammates, the atmosphere of this team, all my coaches. It’s just been such a good experience that it’s gonna be tough when it’s over.”