For the first two years of her career, Crystal Dangerfield had plenty of help to lean on. As a freshman, Saniya Chong ran the offense while Dangerfield came in off the bench. Last season, Kia Nurse was a team leader and had point guard experience with the Canadian National Team. Dangerfield didn’t need to make the calls herself.
Chong and Nurse are now gone, and it’s Dangerfield’s time to step up and command the point on her own. If Saturday night’s win over Vanderbilt is any indication, the junior is more than ready for the responsibility.
Dangerfield dropped a team-high 19-points, went 5-of-7 from three and dished out seven assists. But it was her work as the quarterback of the offense that impressed head coach Geno Auriemma the most.
“I thought she made a couple calls today that were right on the money at the perfect time to get us the perfect shot without being told,” he said. “I think her awareness of her teammates and what we need at a particular time has really shown herself these first couple games.”
In the same way Dangerfield was relying on players like Nurse and Chong, sophomore Megan Walker and freshman Christyn Williams need to lean on her. The entire offense weighs on Dangerfield’s shoulders. But if anything, that burden is a benefit.
“It’s all about her now. Last year, with Kia, when there’s another really experienced guard in the backcourt with you.” Auriemma said. “This year she knows it’s all on me. ‘If I don’t get it done, it ain’t gonna get done.’”
In the overall development of a player, it’s difficult to point to an exact moment when the light came on. But Auriemma can think of one for Dangerfield.
“That was a big moment for her,” Auriemma said. “I think when you make big plays in big moments, it gives you an awful lot of confidence.”
It’s not that she knows the offense as well as Auriemma. Or that she can shoot the ball from well beyond the arc. Or that she can make the flashy passes. Or that she has the athleticism to go wherever she wants on the court. It’s that she does all of those things all the time, and does them well.
Dangerfield is quickly establishing herself as not just one of the best point guards in the country, but one of the best players in all of women’s college basketball. She’s flashed the ability through her first two seasons, but inconsistency and injuries hampered her. Now, just two games into her junior year, it seems to be coming together for Dangerfield.
After all she’s been through at UConn, and all the minutes logged, it’s hard to believe she’s just two games past the midway point in her career. It’s also hard to believe there is anybody in the country playing as well as her.
“She’s been through an awful lot,” Auriemma said. “Right now, she’s as good as anybody. She’s good man. She’s good.”