IU women’s transfer Patterson finding her footing

Like most college students, Danielle Patterson is finding her footing as she goes.

Only for the Indiana women’s basketball redshirt junior guard/forward, that’s both a figurative and literal process.

The 6-foot-2 Patterson has yet to set foot on the court for the Hoosiers after transferring from Notre Dame a year ago, but 10 days ago she began doing sprints and light jogging for the first time since knee surgery last August as IU began voluntary workouts. She hopes to be fully cleared in another month or so after being sidelined shortly after her tenure as a Hoosier began last summer.

“I think it was just (an injury) from over the years,” Patterson said. “What I had was a cartilage defect in my left knee, so the cartilage just kind of wore down over time. It doesn’t happen on the spur of the moment, like an ACL or MCL where it just pops. It just wears away over time is how the doctor explained it, so it causes your knee to really swell up. Once that happens, any time you go to run or jump, it becomes like a balloon, so I had to go get that fixed.”

That fix meant that not only did Patterson have to sit out her transfer season, she also spent a lot of time in rehab, making the integration process just a little more challenging.

“It’s hard. You really have to come in every day with a positive mindset — that’s the most important thing,” Patterson said. “What the coaches and my other teammates have always told me when they’ve gone through injuries is you have to take one day at a time.

“You’re looking at the long run — that’s where you want to get to — but I had to come in and try to get the little victories. If that meant lifting my leg, getting a 90-degree bend, whatever that meant for that day, I just had to try and go in and do it. Yeah, it was isolating, because I spent a lot of time in rehab when my teammates were on the court, but I knew it was something I had to do and I couldn’t have done it with better teammates and coaches, because they were always right there with me.”

But two years at Notre Dame, playing under veterans on a team that won the 2018 national championship and finished as the 2019 national runner-up, prepared Patterson to do more than put up shots and do ballhandling drills during practices.

“Above anything else, I learned how to be a better teammate,” she said. “We had six freshmen last year, so being on the sideline you don’t want to just stand there and not say anything, plus I had two years of experience previously at Notre Dame. I figured out ways to help them and encourage them, because I know how hard freshman year can be, how hard sophomore year can be.

“… I know a lot of times when people mess up on the court, you have to approach each person differently. I think you learn that being around your teammates. Some people react to screaming and yelling and all that stuff, some people need you to pull them to the side and say, ‘Hey, you can do better.’ That comes with learning your teammates. I think I took that from Notre Dame, and I would want someone to do the same for me if I was in that position, telling me I’m not doing great or telling me what I can do better.”

That approach is one reason why Patterson seems poised to help fill the leadership shoes of lone graduating senior Brenna Wise.

“I do seeing Dani Patterson as being one of those kids who could slip into the role of being a leader,” IU coach Teri Moren told The Herald-Times this spring. “She had a great temperament and a great pulse on our team as individuals. Just watching her in practice, watching her walk around and talk and communicate with teammates was very special. She stayed very engaged.”

Patterson also has an impressive basketball resume to draw on as top-30 player and McDonald’s All-American coming out of high school in 2017 before heading to one of the nation’s elite programs in South Bend.

Growing up, however, basketball didn’t initially take root, even with her parents as coaches for a Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) team in Queens, New York.

“At first I didn’t like it as much, I’ll be very honest,” Patterson said. “My mom asked, ‘Do you like playing basketball?’ I was like, ‘Ehh, it’s all right.’ I tried softball and stuff, but I didn’t like that a whole lot either. I came back to basketball around fourth or fifth grade and got really serious about it and realized how much I loved it.”

By sixth grade, Patterson had her first college offer and there was no looking back for a girl that was often literally head and shoulders above the rest.

“When we were playing with co-ed teams, I was one of the tallest kids, always the tallest girl there,” said Patterson, who grew up emulating Scottie Pippen and Candace Parker. “A lot of times (I was) taller than the boys who were playing. I never felt out of place. If anything, I felt in place. I went to school, and I was always the tallest girl. Sometimes you can feel weird about that, but you feel right where you need to be on the basketball court.”

For all the individual and team success that followed, Patterson didn’t feel like she was where she needed to be after two years at Notre Dame. On the court she was only playing 10-12 minutes per game for the Irish, while off the court Patterson was a sports management major. A sports media class had her starting to look in a different direction academically. All of those factors played into the decision to transfer, a second time through the recruiting process, albeit in speed-dating fashion, led Patterson to Indiana.

“I think at that point you know what you want and don’t want,” she said. “When you’re doing it for the first time, there are a lot of things you don’t know, especially if you don’t have a brother or sister or someone do it before you. I’m an only child, so that was the first time for my parents doing it, the first time I was doing it.

“I knew what I wanted in a school the second time around. I wanted a place that really cheered you on, where everyone had a common goal, that you had a very family atmosphere with teammates and coaches and someplace you go in every day and have an opportunity to get better, you have the opportunity to work with people who are going to get you where you need to be.”

Patterson, who did some podcast work at Notre Dame, jumped at the chance to become a sports media major while minoring in management at IU, starting by hosting introductory interviews with the freshmen on social media last fall.

Looking back, the affable Patterson now sees a moment in fourth grade that foreshadowed her future, one she was reminded of by her mother recently.

“In fourth grade, I had won a speech contest with one of my other classmates, and we had to recite a poem or something, read a letter, and we got an award for it,” Patterson said, “so I knew I kind of had a gift when it came to speaking and asking people questions and connecting with people that way.

“I had never really thought about it, but the more I thought about it and started to do it, you know you get to hold the mic and sit in front of the camera and all that in classes here, and I thought, ‘This is something I really think I can excel in and I enjoy doing it.’ I enjoy talking to people and hearing people’s stories, whether that’s athletes or just regular people. I get a lot of joy from it, so it’s something I switched to last minute, but I think I made the right choice.”

Patterson has been one of the most vocal Hoosiers since the 2019-20 season ended, including videos with teammates discussing the recent racism issues and last month starting what she hopes will be a monthly podcast called Social at a Distance. The first guest was former IU standout Jori Davis.

“It’s a conscious effort (to speak out), and I do think we have a responsibility being student-athletes,” said Patterson, who is doing an internship at WFHB. “We’re kind of put in a place at the forefront and we have a huge platform, from our fans to little girls and little boys always looking up to us. I think we have a responsibility to teach them right from wrong and when it comes to race issues and things like that, how important it is to love who you are and understand how important it is to respect others.”

That opportunity was driven home by the team meet-and-greets after games at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

“It’s so awesome. When (the kids) come to the games afterward, they’re like sponges,” she said. “They’re looking at everything we’re doing, and that’s why it is so important to watch what we’re posting and what we’re saying to them, because if you look at it, we were in the position years ago, looking for someone to look up to, so if we can give them a positive image to say, ‘This is what I can grow up and be, a strong woman whether black, white, in between, whatever.’ We have that opportunity and can’t let it go to waste, because they are looking up to us.”

That gives Patterson some pretty good footing for her IU career, on and off the court.

8 comments

  1. Not sure what to expect from D.P. IU Ladies really need her to be solid dependable contributor. However, IU Ladies have several good players. Don’t want to over expect from D.P. Rather, be a solid contributing addition that can dependably play. That includes rebounding (5 or 6 per game) and scoring in the neighborhood of 10 points per game. Coming off the bench or maybe starting sometimes? Is that over expecting?

    1. I’ll let some of the others weigh in, but I don’t think I’d call that over expecting. However, I will say if IU gets 10 points and six rebounds per game from Patterson, that would bode pretty well for the team. Probably depends on health and minutes per game how much is realistic to expect. She did mention to me how she was studying what Brenna Wise was doing as the 4 a lot last year, which was interesting, but I still think you could see her at the 3 with Gulbe and Holmes at the 4-5 if IU wants to go big.

  2. Patterson brings a wealth of experience to the Hoosiers. She has played in 2 ACC championship games, 6 NCAA tournament games and doesn’t know what it’s like to go home early during March Madness. During her time at Notre Dame she appeared in 66 games and logged 762 minutes on the hardwood with a career field goal percentage of .482. She never attempted a 3 – point shot during her 2 seasons with the Irish.
    I see her playing 18 – 22 minutes per game at the 4 spot.
    The combination of Gulbe, Patterson and Holmes gives the Hoosiers arguably the best front court in the B1G. The emergence of 6’5″ Wisne or Noveroski would seal the deal.

  3. Any way its dished out could be a formidable front court and I would be surprised if Noveroski does not work into the mix. If she does not cant see her hanging out in an IU uniform much longer.

    A bigger concern with covid that Uconn is having is getting foreigners back in country. IU cannot afford to be without the services of Gulbe, hopefully it wont be an issue.

  4. Article in the Indy Star not too long ago mentioned Gulbe was spending the summer with family in Europe. Concern from other college players from Europe, with the prediction that the virus would be a issue again when the temps drop. Questioned if it would be better to skip 2020 and start up for the 20/21 season. But you are right, Gulbe adds so much to the team.

  5. Providing there will be a basketball season and going with the thought that the largest improvement of players is from freshman to sophomore per Gulbe– I would foresee great improvement from Holmes. The only thing keeping her from getting 6th man/woman of the year in the BIG was the Owusu girl from Maryland. I also liked how Waggoner looked at the end of last season, will get minutes in the rotation.

    1. Waggoner is just a good smart athletic/sturdy/physical player. Waggoner is no fluke. Surprisingly, better than I would ever expected from her.

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