Guard Danni Jackson stands only at 5-foot-3, but her presence on the basketball court is undeniable.
Leading GW with an average of over 10 points per game last year, Jackson re-emerged as a crucial player for the Colonials after a devastating leg injury kept her on the bench for the majority of her freshman season.
“I don’t really play like a 5-foot-3 person. On the court, you know, it’s all about heart. It doesn’t really matter about your size,” Jackson said. “I don’t go out on the court saying, ‘Oh my God, I’m a midget.’ I just go out there and play.”
After playing as a point guard for her first two years at GW, Jackson will switch to the shooting guard spot this season, one of the many components in head coach Mike Bozeman’s new motion-oriented strategy for the team. It’s a switch in the nature of her play, from the player designated to lead the attack and direct the play on the court, to a pure offensive position, tasked with getting to the basket quickly and accurately.
Switching positions doesn’t present the same type of adversity as the broken left fibula that required season-ending surgery her freshman season. Jackson’s already fought a harder battle, one that only cemented her status as a leader for the Colonials.
“She has been through a lot of injuries and situations that would have caused most people to walk away from the game. But from these situations Danni has actually only gotten better,” junior forward Megan Nipe said. “She’s also physically strong, which helps the team’s perception of her as a leader.”
The reason for the change, Bozeman said, is his belief that Jackson’s talent as a scorer can be utilized more in the shooting guard position. The responsibilities that come with being a point guard – controlling the ball and running plays – detract from her pure shooting talent, he said.
“I think she’s a 6-foot do-it-all in a 5-foot-3 body. Her skill sets, I would match them up with any other guard in the country,” said Bozeman. “We want to put her in a position where we can maximize her total gift, which is that she’s a great all-around player. Despite any deficiencies people might see because of her size, she’s just a great player.”
Jackson knows she’s a solid player on the offensive side of the court. Her strength, quickness and shooting ability allow her to explore all of the different ways to put points on the scoreboard.
Many times, Bozeman said, opponents see her as such a threat that they will devise their defenses around her alone.
“She makes us a different team. She’s a threat from the outside, she’s a threat to go to the basket and she’s a threat to create a scoring opportunity either for herself or for her teammates at all times,” Bozeman said. “I think she has a great basketball IQ too, which helps her utilize these weapons.”
But Jackson isn’t content with resting on her considerable offensive laurels. She’s also not content with only challenging herself to learn a new position.
This year, Jackson is adamant about picking up her defensive play to complement her already strong offensive repertoire.
“My ability on offense is just a God-given talent, so I don’t focus on offense as much. But I do really need to focus on defense this year,” said Jackson.
Jackson admits she feels that a lot of the responsibility for having a successful season rests on her shoulders, but she tries to eliminate the pressure each time she steps on the court, knowing that her team plays best when they’re just having fun.
Jackson said, she’s got one goal in mind as she dons her uniform again: the A-10 tournament.
“We improve as a team every year, we just don’t get the wins,” said Jackson. “This year we have to both get the wins and make the tournament.”