Aleena McDaniel has successful first season at W&J

Aleena McDaniel started playing basketball because of her older brother.

“I first started basketball when I was about 3 years old because I was always following in my big brothers footsteps,” she said. “Anything he, did I did. I started playing on a team when I was in first grade and I’ve been in love with the game ever since.”

A Morgantown native, McDaniel is a 2018 graduate of Morgantown High.

She is a freshman at Washington & Jefferson College, in Washington, Pa.

McDaniel’s college basketball career is off to a good start. She has played in 23 games, starting 18. She scored 14 points in a 75-51 win against Kenyon College. She also put up 14 against La Roche College. She was named PAC (President’s Athletic Conference) Rookie of the Week.

“It was nice to see that my hard work paid off and was paying off as soon as the season started.”

McDaniel was happy with how the season played out.

“We are a young, talented team,” she said. “We beat the No. 1 team in the conference without our leading scorer and we’ve been able to adapt through the adversity and still win. We haven’t let down, which is a good sign for not only this year but years to come.”

W&J finished with a 20-9 mark.

As a Mohigan, McDaniel was a member of the team that won the state championship.

“Being a part of that team helped me to be able to realize how hard I need to work to be successful,” she said. “They were all passionate about the game and each other. Those girls were a great group of role models and I couldn’t have asked for a better group to be a part of.”

McDaniel idolized her brother growing up.

“My brother inspired me to play basketball when I was little and throughout my years of playing I’ve had many coaches help me love the game even more.”

McDaniel is not just a one-sport athlete. Once the basketball season is over, she will be joining the Washington & Jefferson track team.

“I haven’t started track yet because of the basketball season,” she said. “Although, being able to play two sports in college is a privilege and has always been a dream of mine.”

McDaniel began running track in middle school.

“I started running in sixth grade because my middle school coach, Coach Ellis, told me I was good at cross-country so he wanted me to run track,” she said. “I used to play soccer in the spring before sixth grade, but once I started running track I fell in love with the competition.

“The competition in track is different to me than basketball because running around a circle to see how much faster you are than the other person is a different kind of feeling than shooting a ball in a hoop. And that’s what I love about track, it allows me to have a new kind of competition besides basketball.”

McDaniel said she looks forward to track season and is “excited to see if I’ll do the same events or find myself doing other ones.”

McDaniel chose Washington & Jefferson for a few reasons.

“Academics were my main priority when choosing a college, even if that meant not playing sports anymore,” she said. “I didn’t know much about W&J before they reached out to me.

“I was happy to find that they are well known for their academics. They send people to the best law and medical schools, so that definitely caught my interest. When I went there for my first visit I knew I wanted to attend the school. They have small classrooms, great academics and, not to mention, I was blessed to be able to play both of my sports.”

McDaniel said campus is just far enough from her hometown, too.

“Everything about W&J was the perfect fit for me.”

McDaniel doesn’t have to declare a major until next year and isn’t sure what she’ll decide on.

“I went in to my freshman year wanting to major in political science, but as the year goes on, I have been able to see other options that are available to me,” she said.

“My goal for after graduation is to attend law school. As for plans after that? Wherever my life takes me and the best opportunities are presented.”

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