Danae Marquez, at 5-foot-4, stands atop The Fresno Bee’s girls basketball All-Star team as Player of the Year.
But getting there for the Clovis West High School junior point guard hardly has been about playing against her own gender.
This was about following her stepfather, Dave Hernandez, into pickup games against the guys at Clovis’ Sierra Bicentennial Park as an 8-year-old.
This was about, at that same age, being named MVP at a camp for 11- and 12-year-old boys at the Clovis Area Recreation Center.
This was about watching NBA games nightly with Dad and being gifted Allen Iverson and Derrick Rose rookie cards by him for her ninth birthday: “I slept with them under my pillow for like a year.”
This was about going to the gym with him “every single day” as a fifth- and sixth-grader, working out and then “running with the boys for hours, up and down the court.”
Pops says: “At first, the guys didn’t want her to play. But now she can go to any gym or park, they recognize her and want her to play.”
Yes, Marquez has played with the girls for Clovis West program travel teams since the fourth grade. And Golden Eagles coach Craig Campbell identified her potential then.
Sure, Danae Samone Marquez, can shoot, lead and facilitate – long proven for an athlete who has played on Central Section Division I championship teams all three of her varsity seasons and has committed to San Jose State.
But, mostly, this is about a game hardened as a child against dudes.
Simply, toughness + talent = terrific.
Fearless. She’s street smart and doesn’t get rattled. There’s never a moment too big for her.
Clovis West coach Craig Campbell on Danae Marquez
“Fearless,” Campbell says. “She’s street smart and doesn’t get rattled. There’s never a moment too big for her.”
Campbell hesitates to use this analogy, but he does nonetheless while laughing about it: “We’ve joked as a coaching staff that if our team got in an altercation with someone, we’d put our money on Danae.”
Far beyond statistics – Player of the Year honors are often reserved for those with gaudy numbers.
Marquez doesn’t, with averages of 8.6 points (fourth on the team), 3.3 assists, 2.7 steals and 2.4 rebounds.
But here are the numbers that matter most, the numbers she greatly impacted:
▪ 30-4: Clovis West’s season record.
▪ 10-0: The Eagles’ Tri-River Athletic Conference record.
▪ 35.1: Their average scoring differential for the season.
▪ 47.7: Their average scoring differential while going 15-0 against section opposition.
▪ 8/18: Final state (Cal-Hi Sports) and national (USA Today) rankings.
Marquez made a three-pointer to open the game and finished 3 for 3 from behind the arc while scoring 12 points in Clovis West’s 69-38 rout of Edison for the Division I title at Selland Arena in March. The other nine girls teams in the section finals shot a collective 18.7 percent on three-pointers.
3 Clovis West’s Central Section Division I titles in junior Danae Marquez’s three varsity seasons
Tim Amundsen, a former boys basketball Coach of the Year and three-time D-I winner at Clovis East, has followed Marquez closely while his daughter, Tess, prepares to join the Eagles next season as a senior.
“Danae’s the most underrated player in the area in the last two years,” Amundsen says. “She does everything for that team. And when she’s taken out of the game, it changes. She could be the team’s leading scorer if she wanted to be, but she chooses to be unselfish and that’s why they have success.”
Marquez, who turned 16 in November and is young for her class, points elsewhere: “My friends, all my coaches and my family, especially my dad; he’s the reason why I play the game. I wouldn’t be here today without all of them. I’m just grateful for all the support I have.”
She would be most grateful if Clovis West achieved the ultimate goal – a state championship. But there’s not a more difficult prep basketball assignment in the nation than to win an Open Division title in California.
The Eagles have won Southern California Regional Open Division quarterfinals in consecutive seasons, were seeded No. 2 this year and will return five Bee All-Stars, among others.
“We want to win state sooo bad,” Marquez says. “If we put all the pieces together, we’ll truly have a good shot. It’s going to be tough, don’t get me wrong. We play teams that are ridiculously athletic. But we believe in ourselves and have a great coaching staff behind us.
“We actually have a shot.”
Outstanding Offensive Player: Janelle Sumilong
- School: Hanford
- Grade: Junior
- She’s qualified because: Repeats by not only averaging 19.9 points, but 4.8 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 3.8 steals for the 23-8 Bullpups, who shared the West Yosemite League title with Redwood. A comprehensive offensive player because of her exceptional perimeter shooting ability and strength to go inside, she’s on course to become the leading career scorer in a storied program. In three varsity seasons, with Hanford going 70-19, she has scored 1,611 points, trailing the late Shawntinice Polk (2,163), Amy Parrish (1,971), Bayli McClard (1,795) and Madison Parrish (1,630), according to section historian Bob Barnett.
- The college picture: Sumilong, who at 5-foot-7 plays point guard for the Bullpups but is better suited for off guard in college, has not received a scholarship offer. “She certainly compares favorably with many girls who have offers,” says Hanford coach Doug Pitkin, who is encouraging her to pursue the Ivy League. She has a weighted GPA of 4.0.
- He said it: “I knew she could score, but I wanted to see her rebounds, assists and steals go up, and they did. She was a much more complete player this year. She has unbelievable range – she can shoot 5 to 8 feet behind the arc. And she can score in the post because of her strength. Janelle is the quintessential combo scoring guard. And she loves weight room work; she’s by far the strongest player on the team.” – Pitkin.
Outstanding Defensive Player: Aysha Kirkland
- School: Clovis West
- Grade: Senior
- She’s qualified because: A 5-foot-8 guard with broad defensive range, her impact was profound for a 30-4 Golden Eagles team that allowed an average of 36.3 points per game while establishing an average scoring differential of 35.1. Returning with authority after missing her junior season with a torn ACL, she had five steals in a 69-38 win over Edison for the Central Section Division I championship. She has signed with Alcorn State in Mississippi after an initial oral commitment to Fresno Pacific.
- He said it: “She was one of those kids because of her quickness, could lock down a guard and, because of her toughness, could go in and bang against the big kids. A lot of our steals by our other kids were because of her presence. Teams didn’t want to throw the ball in her area because she was so cat-quick. And her steals generally led to easy buckets. When she was on the floor, it often ignited our offense because of defensive transition. She was a constant wrecking ball.” – Eagles coach Craig Campbell.
Coach of the Year: Craig Campbell
- School: Clovis West
- He’s qualified because: The separation in Central Section girls basketball only widens for Clovis West under Campbell, who went 30-4 and captured his seventh Division I title in 11 years while going 15-0 against section competition and winning against them by an average of 48 points. He’s also 11 for 11 in Tri-River Athletic Conference championships. The Golden Eagles’ work ethic and pursuit of excellence continues to be applauded by coaches from the section and beyond in a program that is 265-71 (.789) overall and 107-3 (.973) in the TRAC on his whistle. He’s 505-174 (.744) in 22 years overall in a career launched at Reno High. He won eight section titles and one state crown in 11 seasons there.
- He said it: “This is my first year here and we’re trying to build a program like (Clovis West). They’re very well coached and have a lot of talent. It’s going to take some time.” – Clovis coach Greg Clark.
- He/she said it: “Coming (to scout) here (at Clovis West) is always refreshing. Coach Campbell works hard; the players work hard. That’s what defines them. Hard work has made this program what it is.” – major college coach who asked not to be identified because of NCAA rules.
- She said it: “They run their system better than anyone I’ve seen, to be honest.” – Sierra Canyon-Chatsworth coach Alicia Komaki after an 82-55 loss at Clovis West in the Southern California Open Division quarterfinals.
- He said it: “When I came here, knowing and assessing the landscape, I knew we were not going to win the state every year because of the realistic demographics of the Central Valley vs. Orange County. To win a state title in Nevada was to beat one great team; to win a state title here is to beat four of them. What I wanted to build here was to knock on league and Valley title doors every year and when someone draws Clovis West (in the state playoffs), they know they are going to compete against a team that’s going to work and scratch for 32 minutes. We now have a target on our backs, and I feel good about it. We set the tone in practice and we’re going to bring it every night.” – Campbell.
Small Schools Player of the Year: Zoe March
- School: Immanuel
- Grade: Senior
- She’s qualified because: Zoe’s a Greek name that means “life,” and that’s precisely what she represented as the face of Eagles girls basketball for four Central Section championship seasons. This honor is more about career achievement for the point guard, who led Immanuel to an 85-31 record, including Division V titles her first two seasons and D-IV crowns her past two – this for a program that hadn’t won any before she came aboard. The Eagles defeated Orosi 38-35 at Selland Arena for this season’s title as March commanded the floor and delivered eight assists to help repel a determined Cardinals charge to the wire. Her savvy was critical in a game Immanuel also played one junior, three sophomores and four freshmen. She averaged 13.2 points, 5.4 assists, 5.8 rebounds and 4.1 steals this season, missing 10 games with a wrist injury. She departs with career numbers of 1,194 points, 536 rebounds, 466 assists and 371 steals. Competing in track and field this spring for the first time as a prep, she’s leading the section in the 300 low hurdles at 44.27 seconds. Next for the student with a 4.0 GPA – Azusa Pacific for basketball.
- She said it: “When I think of Immanuel basketball, the achievements are nice, the wins are nice, but I immediately go to the relationships I’ve built with my teammates and will have for the rest of my life. I’ve had the most amazing team experiences.” – March.
- He said it: “I remember the summer before Zoe’s freshman year. I had just got the job and we scrimmaged at Orosi. I’m wondering, ‘What do I have?’ I put four seniors and Zoe on the floor. The very first play, she drove through the defense, made a layup and I went, ‘Wow, this is going to work really well.’ She has natural ability and unbelievable hand-eye coordinator. But it’s her strive for excellence that really sets her apart.” – Eagles coach James Stevens.
Small Schools Coach of the Year: James Stevens
- School: Immanuel
- He’s qualified because: So good, so consistent have the Eagles been in Stevens’ four years, they’ve been bumped from Division V to D-IV and surely are headed to D-III when the Central Section’s competitive equity-based realignment kicks in a new three-year cycle in 2017. A program without a section title before he arrived from Parlier has now won four straight – D-V in 2013 and ’14 and D-IV in ’15 and ’16. Immanuel, with a combination of nine freshmen and sophomores, plus one junior, surrounding senior point guard Zoe March, went 20-9 this season and defeated Orosi 38-35 at Selland Arena for the D-IV championship. Stevens is a 2000 Immanuel graduate who attended Reedley College and Fresno Pacific.
- He said it: “Before my first practice here (in the fall of 2012), we went into the weight room and all of the school’s Valley championships were listed on the wall. I said, ‘Do you see what’s missing?’ They said, ‘Yeah.’ I said, ‘OK, then, if you’re willing, let’s go and win the first Valley championship.’ From that day on, that’s what they’ve played for. I’ve been really blessed with some amazing players. Zoe’s been the glue; we wouldn’t be here without her. But we wouldn’t be here without the rest of them, also. I’ve been really fortunate to coach good players who’ve bought into the system and have been willing to accept their roles.” – Stevens.
The Bee’s Jive 25 Girls Basketball All-Stars
- Jordan Bairos, senior, Caruthers
- Randazia Jones, junior, Central
- Rachel Berry, junior, Clovis
- Taytum Still, senior, Clovis
- Megan Anderson, junior, Clovis West
- Sarah Bates, junior, Clovis West
- Bre’yanna Sanders, junior, Clovis West
- Madison Campbell, freshman, Clovis West
- Serena Ybarra, freshman, Coalinga
- Rodjanae Wade, senior, Edison
- Jerrene Richardson, senior, Edison
- Malaya Kendrick, junior, Edison
- Danica Todd, senior, Exeter
- Kate McClard, sophomore, Hanford
- N’Dea Jones, senior, Hanford
- Krystale Gutierrez, sophomore, Immanuel
- Tristen Myers, senior, Mission Oak
- Kambrayia Elzy, sophomore, Mission Oak
- Hailey Scott, junior, Monache
- Cassidy Rodriguez, senior, Orosi
- Madison Kast, senior, Redwood
- Champelle Kelly, senior, Roosevelt
- Alexandrea Ambriz, senior, Sanger
- Maesyn Rix, sophomore, Sierra
- Mariah Hernandez, junior, Strathmore