When Lenoir-Rhyne women’s basketball coach Todd Starkey talks about senior point guard, Danielle Bongiorno, his comments about her play, as well as her character, are genuine.
“She’s the one I want with the ball and is our leader on the floor,” Starkey said. “As a person, she’s the kid that, as a dad, you hope and pray marries your son.”
The 5-foot-5-inch Bongiorno is the only player to have started in every game for Lenoir-Rhyne, which led the South Atlantic Conference (17-4 overall, 12-4 conference) as the team headed into a scheduled home game Feb. 15 against Lincoln Memorial. The Bears had a home game against Newberry on Feb. 11 postponed due to the snow and rescheduled for Feb. 17.
Bongiorno is fifth on the team averaging 5 points per game, but she leads the team in steals (1.4 per game) as well as assists (4 per game), and her assist average places her fifth in the league.
And as much as she handles the ball, Bongiorno doesn’t give it away. She averages 1.7 turnovers per game, and her assist to turnover ratio (2.3/1) leads the conference and is ninth nationally in Division II.
Bongiorno’s scoring numbers could be better, but she sacrifices for the team and that is what makes her a leader and has allowed the Bears to be successful.
“As the point guard, it’s not my job to score,” Bongiorno said. “I’ve learned a lot about how to be consistent and to play with confidence every night. And if I don’t get my teammates involved, I’m not doing my job and we won’t be successful as a team.”
Off the court, Bongiorno’s performance is as good or better. A sports management major with a 3.99 grade point average, Bongiorno was the 2012-13 SAC Women’s Basketball Scholar Athlete of the Year and was one of nine finalists for the conference’s President’s Award.
She is active in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Campus Crusade for Christ and has the highest GPA of any female student-athlete on campus or in the conference.
“I feel like I’ve transformed so much as a person as well as a basketball player since coming here,” Bongiorno said. “My faith is such a big part of my life, and that along with the leadership from my coaches and teammates that has allowed me to grow so much.”
As her college career winds down, Bongiorno still has goals. The Bears will be one of the favorites to win the SAC title, and they have a good chance to earn a bid to the NCAA DII playoffs.
But however the season turns out, Starkey is thankful to have had the opportunity to coach and watch his point guard perform on and off the court.
“I’ll miss so much about her, but mostly her energy,” Starkey said. “She’s never down and keeps everybody positive. She’s such a tremendous person, I’m fortunate to have coached someone who has become like a daughter to me.
Matt Kline is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Matt? Email him at Matthew_kline@att.net.
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