Senior forward/center Dannielle Diamant is ready for her senior season. As a freshman, Diamant played in all 33 games and started 11 of them. After taking off part of her sophomore season for personal reasons, Diamant started in every game she played in junior year, averaging career highs in points, rebounds and assists. This year, she is one of four seniors leading a much younger team. North by Northwestern sat down with Diamant to talk about the upcoming season.
You led the team in multiple categories last season, including free-throw percentage, blocks and double-doubles. You were also a third team All-Big Ten selection. How do you plan to build on a successful junior year? What are some things you can improve on?
I think one of the main things this year is just kind of getting our freshmen into the whole thing. We have so many of them, and then from there, my job is just to help them speed up with me and Kendall [Hackney] and all the upperclassmen. Obviously get my numbers up from last year if it’s possible. Hopefully, make first team Big Ten instead of third team Big Ten. This is a completely different team than we had last year, so it’ll be cool to see how we all play out and stuff.
The team had an impressive 9-1 start last season but only won five games after that. What did you learn from the late-season struggles last year and how do you think you’ll avoid that this year?
I think another thing is we have so many new people, so it’s just completely different team. You do learn a lot. You learn kind of more just what to do, what not to do, stuff like that. Definitely playing as a team we’re gonna have this year since there is such a big difference between the upperclassmen and the underclassmen. Five freshmen, that’s a lot. If we can just get them under our wing and get them playing how we all know that they can play, it’ll be a great year, preseason and postseason.
So what are some of the challenges in dealing with the freshmen and their lack of experience?
I wouldn’t necessarily say there are challenges. You just gotta get them in the flow of what you’re used to playing with. Kendall and I, we played together for – this is our fourth year now, so I know what she’s gonna do. She knows what I’m gonna do, just kind of learning each other’s games and knowing what they’re thinking and at the same time how you should go off of that and just working as a team, really. I wouldn’t say it’s a challenge. You just need some time. Luckily, we have been together since August, so we’re a step ahead of the game.
What are some of the team goals as for the whole 2012-2013 season?
We have a lot of them, definitely. We want a postseason, we want a Big Ten championship, we want to go to the NCAA tournament, not just the WNIT, but those are the long-term stuff. We kind of take it day-by-day as a team as well, just making sure that we’re having good practices and even off the court, too, trying to keep on our school work. Last year, we had over a 3.0, I think, as a team GPA and that’s awesome, so we gotta keep that up too.
It’s not just all basketball. Basketball is definitely important, don’t get me wrong, but academics are, too.
The team went to Italy in early September. What were some of the memorable moments from the trip?
Oh my gosh! Let’s see if I can pick a couple out. Well, we have a couple with the waiters. They were pretty funny, and their interactions with some of our coaches. Our tour guide Fabio, he was pretty awesome. He liked to wake me up on the back of the bus a lot. Just the whole experience in general was just awesome. I went to Israel before my freshman year, so I’ve gone overseas. I’m going again next summer for the same thing, but for people who haven’t had the chance to go overseas and play, it’s such a cool experience, and we got to hang out with one of the teams that we played against and it’s really cool just to learn different cultures and the history in the country. It’s so cool, once in a lifetime.
Is there any one experience that stood out that was your favorite?
My favorite... um, no I don’t think so. Like there’s just so many great ones. It’d be hard to pick out a favorite.
Got a top three?
I’m trying to think. Hanging out with the other Italian team was really fun. We got to go to dinner with them after one of our games. It was right on the lake, and there was a bunch of expensive yachts and stuff all around. It was really cool. They taught us some Italian words and we taught them some English words. They actually listen to a lot of American music, which I thought was kind of cool. It was kind of just a culture shock, too, to see how people from other countries listen to our music but we know nothing about them. Same with Nof [Kedem]. She’s from Israel and she knows all of our music. We went to some islands off of Stresa. We got to see old palaces and stuff that royalty got to live in. Most of it was roped off, so you couldn’t go over there. Some people could actually rent the rooms out to live in, which I thought was kind of cool. I was reading Game of Thrones at the time, and it was just talking about royalty and living in palaces and whatnot and I was just like, “Oh so this where this person could live in.” I don’t know. I’m a nerd, but I thought it was kind of cool. I don’t know, there were just so many. It’s hard to pick out.
Your grandfather is coaching legend Jerry Tarkanian. What influence did he have on your decision to play basketball, if any?
I wouldn’t say he really influenced it. After I started playing he would kind of coach me if I wanted him to. He never forced his opinion on me. He kind of just let me be my own person and my own player and if I had a question or needed advice and stuff, if I wanted him to work me out, I had to go to him. He would never suggest it or whatever. He was kind of cool and just let me be my own person and that kind of story.
Do you have any funny stories about him from your childhood that you’d want to share?
I have a lot of stories, probably none that I would want to share, though. Sorry. It’s a bunch of personal, family stuff.
Anything from coaching? Did anything ever happen while he was coaching you?
I’ve told this one to other people, too. He was working me out one time and he was making me run sprints against our point guard, and this was in seventh, eighth grade, and it was at the end of my workout so I was already tired and he was just like, “We’re not gonna go home until you beat her” and I was this big old center, you know, and our point guard was this quick little girl who was a year younger than I was so she was super fast, easily could’ve done track. By our seventh one I was like “Can I go to the bathroom? Like I really have to go.” and he just was like, “Yeah sure, fine.” so my teammate came with me and we just sat there for 20 minutes because we didn’t wanna go back out. Then, my mom came out, I guess, and was like, “Dad, where’d the girls go?” “I don’t know. They went to the bathroom like 20 minutes ago and they never came back.” So my mom came in the bathroom like, “Get out there. Go finish your workout.” He really didn’t work me out that much, though, so that’s probably the only time that he did, and I chose never to have it happen again. Now, since I’ve been in college, he’ll work me out or he’ll tell me things to work on, but he doesn’t come and go run me through this drill.
Is there anything you want people to know about the team for this year?
We’re coming. I mean We’re all hungry. We want a Big Ten Championship. We wanna go to the postseason, so, at least I know the seniors do and I mean I know the rest of the team does, too, but I mean, Kendall and I, we’re really ready.