November 5, 2018 10:37:12 AM
STARKVILLE -- Fear isn't an option for Jordan Danberry.
Hesitation also won't be an issue for Danberry as she counts down to the start of her senior season as a member of the Mississippi State women's basketball team.
Consistency and balance are two of the biggest things 5-foot-8 Danberry will try to bring to the court at 7 p.m. Tuesday when No. 6 MSU kicks off the regular season against Southeast Missouri State at Humphrey Coliseum.
The graduation of guards Victoria Vivians, Roshunda Johnson, Blair Schaefer, and Morgan William has created an opening for Danberry. The transfer from Arkansas has displayed a knack throughout her career for being able to use her quickness and ballhandling to get to any spot on the court. This season, Danberry said her challenge is to get in the gym and polish her shooting touch so she can finish when she is in those positions.
"I feel like I will be able to fill that spot," Danberry said last week at MSU's on-campus media day. "I feel like my defense plays a lot in there because defense gets me going and helps me get those easy points in transition."
Danberry transferred from Arkansas to MSU in December 2016. She had to sit out a year due to NCAA rules and became eligible as a Bulldog on Dec. 10, 2017, against Little Rock. In 31 games last season, she averaged 2.8 points and 1.3 rebounds in 9.6 minutes per game. Even in limited playing time, Danberry, who was named to the SEC's Academic Honor Roll, displayed explosiveness and an ability to create her shot, but she shot 36.5 percent from the field.
As a freshman at Arkansas, Danberry appeared in all 30 games (13 starts) and averaged 6.7 points and 2.6 rebounds in 19.2 minutes per game. She shot 33 percent from the field and had 2.3 assists and 0.9 steals per game.
ESPN rated Danberry a five-star recruit coming out of Conway High School (Ark.). She was ranked No. 47 nationally, the No. 14 point guard, after earning the 2014 Arkansas Gatorade Player of the Year. She averaged 15.7 points, 6.8 rebounds, 6.5 assists, and 2.7 steals per game as a senior.
"She is really special," Schaefer said last month at Southeastern Conference Media Days. "That is a kid who is flexible. You can use her at the point or the two. She plays a lot bigger than her size. I am really excited to see Jordan play this year and be that impact player I knew she was going to be coming out of high school when I tried to get her the first time.
"I think she is ready. She is another one who is chomping at the bit and is ready to go."
Danberry acknowledged it is "kind of hard" controlling her pace of play. She said she might have to adjust and go a little slower so she can control her tempo. She said it is hard to explain how to slow down, but she said she needs to figure it out and when to change speeds. Danberry said finding that balance will help her be more consistent.
"Sometimes I feel like my mind is racing with my speed and I might be already ahead of the ball and may leave the ball behind," Danberry said. "It is just slowing down a little bit and not trying to match their energy if they are all in your face with on-ball defense. It is just slowing down mentally and physically and letting them drop back and then using my speed to go around them."
Schaefer hopes Danberry, who also could see time at point guard with classmate Jazzmun Holmes and redshirt sophomore Myah Taylor, provides additional production as the Bulldogs try to replace the losses from last season's team that won a program-record 37 games and advanced to the national title game for the second-consecutive season.
"She is going to have to," Schaefer said when asked if Danberry is going to be able to score like he needs her to. "The thing about Jordan is she may be the best in my 34 years of coaching in getting to her spot. I don't care if you're in a zone, man, a triangle-and-two, it's hard to keep that kid from getting to where she wants to on the floor. Now she has to execute and finish, but she is really good at getting to her spot. She is hard to handle."
Schaefer said last week that Danberry still can get to her spots on the court when she wants to. He said it is the responsibility of all of the coaches to make sure they put Danberry in spots where she can maximize her abilities. Part of that might come in a half-motion offense, where the Bulldogs hand off the basketball in a weave to force defenses to make decisions how they're going to guard. MSU also could showcase Danberry's speed and quickness in an up-and-down game, where it pushes tempo off rebounds or off its defensive pressure.
Either way, Schaefer said it is imperative Danberry finishes. In MSU's victory against Central Missouri in an exhibition game Friday, Danberry had five points on 2-for-8 shooting from the field in 22 minutes. One of the shots she missed epitomized the challenge she faces this season. Danberry received a pass on the left wing on a transition opportunity and raced under the rim in an attempt to avoid a defender. Unfortunately, her scoop shot on the right side of the rim went off the backboard on the left side and caromed away.
"You talk about an explosive, athletic guard. She is really all of that and then some," Schaefer said last week. "We have to do a good job and continue to develop her and want from her. I tell several of them every day I just need more. We have had people in front of you and now this is your time to produce. This is your moment. I need it more and better."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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