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Daniels enrolls at Merced College
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Quantelle Daniels started playing organized basketball in the fifth grade. Her parents--Tim and Patricia--have attended almost all of her games.

"We missed very few," Tim said.

The Daniels are looking forward to watching their daughter compete at the collegiate level.

"I'm her number one fan," Tim said.

Quantelle, a 2004 Ceres High graduate, joined the Merced College women's basketball program. The 5-foot-3 point guard moved to Merced on Aug. 14 and started practicing with the Blue Devils on Aug. 16.

"I don't have any regrets," said Daniels, a first-generation college student, who's sharing an apartment with three other players, including 2003 Ceres High graduate, former teammate and close friend Keyasha Brothern. "I made the right decision."

In May, Daniels made a verbal commitment to Cal State Stanislaus women's basketball coach Sharon Turner-Dean. But a lack of communication prompted Daniels to enroll at another college.

"I always wanted to go there," Daniels said. "They kind of got my hopes up.

"She (Turner-Dean) never called me back."

Daniels committed to Merced on Aug. 12. She called Allen Huddleston, Merced's coach, early in the morning.

"It was a surprise to me because I thought she would be playing for a four-year school somewhere," Huddleston said. "I thought she was going to go to Stanislaus."

Huddleston watched Daniels play a lot in high school.

"I first saw her play as a freshman when we recruited Courtne Evans," Huddleston said. "I always liked the way she played. She's a great athlete and she plays hard."

Daniels will be a key addition to a team that finished second in the Central Valley Conference and advanced to the championship game of the regional playoff tournament.

"She's talented enough to take players out of a game with her defensive ability," Huddleston said.

Huddleston called Daniels a leader.

"She's going to have a great influence on our players and her leadership alone is going to make a difference for us," he said.

Daniels played a lot of basketball this summer.

She competed twice a week in the Modesto Magic women's basketball league. She also participated in games at Cal State Stanislaus and Merced College on a regular basis.

Daniels had a stellar senior campaign. The first-team, all-Central California Conference selection averaged 12 points, four rebounds and three assists per game en route to leading Ceres to a second-place finish in league at 10-3, 21-8 overall record and into the playoffs for the 10th year in a row under Shawna Nunes' guidance. The Bulldogs also advanced past the first round of the playoffs for the second year in a row.

In the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I Playoffs, Daniels had a team-high 19 points, including 17 in the second half, during the Bulldogs' 55-52 victory over Tokay. She scored 13 points in a 55-38 loss to the Davis Spartans in the quarterfinals of the playoffs.

Daniels was a four-year varsity starter. She won the team's Most Valuable Player award this past season and earned second-team, all-league honors as a junior and sophomore.

Daniels was team captain for three years.

"She used to get physically sick before games but she got through that," said Phil de la Porte, Ceres High athletic director and assistant varsity girls basketball coach. "She got tougher as she got older. She became a leader. She might have been the best defensive player we've ever had."

Daniels didn't expect to play at the varsity level during her first year in high school. Coach Kassi Baker notified her right before a pre-season, freshman game.

"I was already warmed up," Daniels said. "She pulled me aside and told me I wouldn't be playing. I started crying because I didn't want to play varsity. I wanted to play with my friends."

Daniels developed into a solid player with help from her father and coaches.

"Phil started working out with her in the eighth grade," Tim said.

Several former teammates, including Brothern, Evans and Reshundra Smiley, also served as mentors.

"They just took her under their wings and worked with her," Tim said. "They really helped her develop her game."

Said Quantelle: "They were like big sisters...I looked up to her (Reshundra) my freshman year because she was so fast and made every shot."

Quantelle also studied a lot of game film. Her father recorded the majority of her games. He could always be spotted in the bleachers behind the scorer's table at home games with a video camera in his hand.

"I've never sat down and counted the tapes," Tim said. "I've got boxes of them. I've got tapes when she was in the sixth, seventh and eighth grades."

Quantelle has always preferred basketball over other sports, including baseball, softball, volleyball and track and field.

"I enjoy the competition and the friends you meet," she said.

Kenneth Check introduced Quantelle to the sport on the playground at Sipherd Elementary School.

"It all started with Mr. Check," Tim said.

Added Quantelle: "He was my fifth-grade teacher."

In sixth grade, Daniels suited up for the Teel Middle School basketball team. She won the Most Valuable and Improved player awards while starring on the Blaker-Kinser Jr. High seventh-and-eighth-grade teams.

Quantelle played youth baseball for two years in the Tuolumne River League in Empire. She joined the league when she was eight years old.

"She was the only girl in the league and she was cracking home runs and stealing bases," Tim said.

Daniels played softball in the seventh grade at Blaker Kinser.

She was a member of the Ceres High track and field and volleyball teams for two years.

During her freshman year, Daniels teamed up with Smiley, Keiona Williams and Amy Kissee and finished 16th in the 4x100-meter relay at the CIF State Meet. They also won the section championship as they completed the event in a school-record time of 48.42 seconds.

"Just about everything she played, she became good at," Tim said. "She was a heck of a tether ball player.

"Basketball is the thing she always stuck with."

Tim and Quantelle love to compete against one another.

They used to play basketball all the time.

"She'd run around, get me tired and take advantage of me," Tim said.

Quantelle is just as competitive off the court.

"It's gone from the court to chess," Tim said. "She's actually gotten pretty good. She beat me last time."

Daniels has always wanted to pursue a career in nursing. She listed the profession on the back of her little-league trading card.

"That's something I've wanted to do since I was nine," she said.

Daniels worked in medical offices in Modesto and Hughson for six months. The state-certified youth peer provider helped run teen clinics.

"I've always wanted to help people," Quantelle said. "I want to open my own clinic." - By DALE BUTLER / Staff Reporter of The Ceres (Calif.) Courier