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On the Move
The following article first appeared in issue No. 4 of the Flames Illustrated game program for the 2011-12 basketball season, which was available at the Vines Center between Jan. 21-Feb. 13. Danika Dale and the Lady Flames are currently on an 11-game winning streak, which has propelled the team to the top of the Big South Conference standings. Liberty will return to action Saturday at 1 p.m. at Winthrop.
Liberty senior wing player Danika Dale has been on the move for a majority of her life. Growing up in a military family, she moved from place to place regularly. On the basketball court, she remains in constant motion, providing Liberty with a spark both offensively and defensively.
Danika's parents, Grear and Daniela Dale, have each been affiliated with the military. Her father has served tours of duty in Iraq, and is currently serving with the U.S. Army's efforts in Afghanistan.
"Danika's father has had two tours in Iraq, and currently is in Afghanistan with the Army," Liberty head coach Carey Green said. "Our prayers and our concern are always for Grear Dale, him and his men and all of our soldiers."
The Dale family moved several times while Danika was growing up, and she attributes that movement and culture with allowing her to be comfortable in any situation. Twice, they spent extended time in Germany, before returning to the United States.
"Growing up as a military kid teaches you a lot of different things, how to adapt in different areas and develop your communication skills," Dale said. "I don't really have a problem going to any new place and meeting someone, or with moving around a lot."
A native of Fort Hood, Texas, Dale is one of four current Liberty women's basketball players to hail from the state of Texas. Additionally, she is the first girls basketball player from Shoemaker High School to earn an NCAA Division I athletic scholarship.
"It's definitely a lot of responsibility. I need to be a good example," Dale added. "Since I'm the first, I need to be the one to finish this through. Hopefully that's like a stepping ladder for other girls at my high school. If they put in the work, they can make it just as well."
Green views Texas as a strong recruiting base for the Liberty basketball team.
"First of all, Texas is a big recruiting base; it's a huge state, and they have a large sense of pride," Green said. "Women's basketball has a great heritage in the state of Texas. The state's tradition of fostering strong family values and Christian values falls right in line with Liberty. There is a good brand of basketball in Texas, and we'll probably continue to recruit in that state."
An artist at heart, Dale majors in graphic design, with a goal of becoming a sports photographer. Green sees her creativity at work on the basketball court as well.
"I just like being able to do what I want to, and being able to express myself creatively when there's no right or wrong," Dale said. "If it's pleasing to somebody else, then that's even better, so it's really fun. I want to go toward more of the photography side because I want to be a sports photographer."
"She can be very creative as a person and as a basketball player," Green added. "That's her strength as a basketball player is to basically slash to the basket, create a shot, create a pass. She's been very active as a basketball player in developing, and has always been someone that can break defenses down."
Dale had been a key reserve for most of her career, appearing in 90 games over her first three seasons at Liberty. This year, she has started every game for the Lady Flames, providing athleticism and senior leadership on the wing.
"I feel like the more this season goes on, the more I have become comfortable with it," Dale said. "Starting, at first it was very nerve-wracking, but now it's kind of like I'm just starting off to get things in motion. I pride myself in making sure that, since I'm starting, I try to push through as much as I can, to keep my head up and keep on going. I feel like, as a starter, people will watch how I handle myself, and they will tend to act accordingly."
"I think this year, with that final-season mentality, she's accepting a leadership role and responsibilities that she should lead the team," Green said. "In the past, she could always relinquish that responsibility to the upperclassmen, but there are no upperclassmen above her anymore. I expect nothing more than her very best, and I think she's going to give that."
Dale experienced NCAA postseason play during her freshman and sophomore seasons, seeing action in the NCAA Tournament first round against Louisville in 2009 and versus Kentucky in 2010. Along with fellow senior Avery Warley, who has also won two titles as a player, she looks to lead the younger players in their quest for the program's 14th Big South championship.
"Having Danika and other players, like Devon Brown and Avery Warley to come in and have that experience, they shouldn't be overwhelmed by the stage or the level," Green added. "They should know that they are going to have to compete at the highest level at that point in time and not be in awe of their opponent."
Dale has quietly carved out a place in the Liberty record books. She recently entered the top 50 rebounding list in program history, and she has been a versatile contributor during the current campaign. Dale is the only Big South player to rank in the conference's top 10 in assists, steals and blocked shots. She recorded the first double-double of her career during a Nov. 26 victory against Lipscomb, consisting of 11 points and a career-high 10 rebounds.
"I feel like this year has been pretty good for me. I've progressed in a lot of different ways, being more aggressive and being able to just go strong to the basket," Dale said. "I have been trying to loosen up, and just use my talents—driving, passing and making good plays. I'm really happy with the way things are turning out and hopefully I can continue to progress throughout the season."
Dale has learned many lessons during her time at Liberty, and has grown personally, spiritually and physically.
"My time at Liberty has been a good progression, and I feel like I'm becoming more of an adult," Dale said. "Spiritually, I'm not too worried about things that I used to be worried about, and it's really cut out some distractions in my life. I have learned how to manage being a basketball player and then a regular student at the same time."
Look for Danika Dale to continue to use her creativity for God's glory in all phases of her life, including as a starter for the Lady Flames. She will certainly be looked to for leadership as Liberty makes a push toward further postseason success.
Joe Carmany is an assistant athletic communications director for Liberty University.