The University of Washington wasn’t on Dalayah Daniels’ list initially. The former Garfield High standout has circled back.
Daniels transferred from California to her hometown Huskies and after the first week of practice is already enjoying her “home within a home” — in addition to home-home, which is nearby.
“I love that she loves Seattle, that she loves community. Her family is amazing,” second-year UW coach Tina Langley said. “She has a great comfort level. I think she’s very excited with where the program is heading.”
It appears Daniels will be a huge part of wherever they go.
“When I met Coach Tina and the rest of her staff, it just made sense,” Daniels said. “Their vision for me and my future — everything that I stood for — I just thought it was a perfect fit.
“The fact that it was home was just the cherry on top.”
The 6-foot-4, five-star, All-American forward was prospectsnation.com’s No. 26 recruit for the Class of 2020 when she committed to Cal in late 2019. She was the team’s leading scorer as a freshman, averaging 11.2 points and 6.7 rebounds, and earned Pac-12 All-Freshman Honorable Mention team honors.
The next year, teammate Jayda Curry led the Pac-12 in scoring as Daniels’ average playing time dipped. She started 12 of the team’s 21 games, averaging 7.9 points and 4.9 rebounds. The Huskies got a good look as Daniels put up a season-high 21 points against them Feb. 24.
Daniels said she built lasting relationships during her time as a Golden Bear but recognized it was time to move on.
“I kind of grew out of it. I think I realized that I could be growing a lot more,” she said. “I think everything kind of happened for a reason and laid out the way it did.”
Once again, home wasn’t on her mind when she entered the transfer portal. But when rising junior Daniels started going on visits, the rebuilding Huskies painted a nice picture.
Daniels thought she had more to offer than she’d showcased so far, and this new offense could help her. She wanted sisterhood and service — in essence, two of the guiding principles Langley is encouraging as she pushes the Huskies toward their first winning season since 2016-17.
“Coach Tina has done a really good job trying to change the culture here and instill that in her players,” Daniels said.
“The main thing is I came here to win. I think Coach Tina is going to be able to help me broaden my game and help me grow more in every aspect of my game.”
In Langley’s first year, the Huskies finished 7-16 overall and matched Cal with two conference wins, though one of the Bears’ was a forfeit.
The Huskies’ five-player 2021 freshman signing class either entered the transfer portal or decommitted. Nancy Mulkey, who led the Pac-12 in blocked shots per game (3.0) among other accomplishments, signed with the Las Vegas Aces (WNBA) as a rookie free agent April 16.
It’s a scenario where the hometown kid can make an immediate impact.
“She’s going to give us so much versatility,” Langley said. “She has the potential to be a future pro and so she has that work ethic and drive for the game that you love to see at this level.”
Daniels’ father, Dale, won a basketball state title at Garfield in 1974. After falling in the 3A championship game as a sophomore, Dalayah and the Bulldogs secured the first girls title in 15 years in 2020. She was a two-time Metro League MVP and All-State selection.
“Our family bleeds purple,” Daniels said. “It was only right that I came back and did that again.”
Her parents are happy. Her seven older siblings, who can now attend her games, are happy. The reaction when she posted a series of Instagram photos — no caption needed, her Huskies jersey said it all — was immediate and positive.
“It feels really good to be back home,” Daniels said.
New in town
A trio of California guards make up a 2022 recruiting class ranked 10th by ESPN.com. A Patriot League Tournament MVP and Seattle native joined as transfers.
Reinforcements also serve as competition, but Langley said they’re trying to reframe that word and concept.
“That’s actually a person that’s a partner in our own personal and collective growth,” she said.
Here’s a quick look at the new arrivals.
Dalayah Daniels, 6-4 forward (Cal)
Athletic, adaptable Daniels is usually on the move.
“She has played a lot of post in her college career, and we believe she can also face up and play multiple positions,” Langley said.
Emma Grothaus, 6-3 forward (Lehigh)
Grothaus was Lehigh’s team captain and averaged 12.8 points and 9.2 rebounds during the 2021-22 season.
“When you’re bringing a larger class, you want to bring in people who have had experience and success,” the coach said.
Shayla Gillmer, 6-1 forward (Aliso Viejo, California)
True freshman Gillmer signed with BYU in November. After head coach Jeff Judkins retired, she reopened her recruitment and landed with the Huskies.
“She is an elite athlete. Just a ton of athleticism and a bounce to her that you love to see,” Langley said. “She hasn’t played the game very long so she has an incredibly high ceiling.”
Hannah Stines, 5-10 guard (Garden Grove, California)
Langley called her “elite” and “highly sought after.” ESPN’s HoopGurlz recruiting rankings have her at No. 40, the highest of her class.
“Just incredibly skilled. She makes people around her better, on the court and off the court,” Langley said. “She can really score the basketball but is often quite unselfish.”
Elle Ladine, 5-11 guard (Sunnyvale, California)
Basketball has a hold on Ladine’s family — her father coaches and a brother plays professionally overseas.
“She just brings an infectious energy,” Langley said. “She has a great gift for the game.”
Teagan Brown, 5-10 guard (El Dorado Hills, California)
Like the other two freshmen guards, Langley expects Brown can play multiple positions.
“Incredible in open court. Great transition player,” Langley said.