Danielle Cheesman is your typical teenage girl. She blushes easily, giggles a lot and loves to be with her friends.
She's a softie with a tendency to be silly. That is, until you hand a basketball to this year's Deseret News Ms. Basketball award winner.
"She really has a lot of fun at practice, to the point of sometimes I have to say 'OK, focus,' " said Mountain View coach Dave Houle, who's been watching Cheesman since sixth grade when she attended one of his summer camps. "Then, at game time, oh my gosh, she becomes an animal. She's all business."
Her congeniality helped calm her young team this past December when it went up against some of the best teams in America at the Nike Tournament of Champions in Chicago. The Bruins came home with third place and more national respect. They are ranked No. 1 in the country by ESPN.com and don't be surprised if they win a national title, the first ever by a Utah prep hoops team.
The senior center is the team's leader for her compassionate personality and insatiable desire to win.
"Every team has got to have a go-to girl," Houle said. "Danielle's ours . . . When we were down by 10 points against German Towne (in Chicago), it was Danielle who kept us in the game."
Cheesman is one of the few "big" players who can dribble while sprinting down the court. Houle said some of her talent comes from the fact that she's left-handed and has a 75 1/2-inch "wingspan." The length of her arms helps her play like she's 6-3, not 6-1, he said.
Cheesman averaged 23.6 minutes per game, never playing a whole game against an in-state team. She averaged 20.7 points, 14.4 rebounds, 5.5 blocks, 2.3 steals and 1.7 assists per game. All while being double- and triple-teamed.
The center is also an honor student and has been named to the Parade All-American girls basketball team. It's expected she'll garner more honors before the year ends.
What does she think of being named the state's best female basketball player?
"I'm excited," said Cheesman, the recipient of the seventh annual Ms. Basketball award. "It's fun. It's a really nice honor."
Cheesman said she developed a passion for hoops while watching her father, former BYU player Jay Cheesman, play in recreation leagues for the city.
"He told me, 'If you want to be good, you have to work hard,'" she said. "So I said, 'OK, I'm going to work as hard as I can.'"
Houle said he could tell she'd worked on her game some, even as a sixth grader. She kept the ball high and didn't make a lot of the mistakes post players make when rebounding or shooting in the key.
In addition to lifting weights, running and shooting for about an hour and a half each afternoon, Cheesman said she, her sisters and brothers, often go with their father before school to shoot around. Her dad watches every game and offers insight into what she did right and what wasn't so right.Comment on this story
"He's my best coach," she said. And after she led her team to a state title this season, she said he "just said, 'Good job.' He was really excited."
Cheesman was heavily recruited but decided the summer after her junior year she wanted to stay close to home and play with her older sister, Heather Cheesman, at BYU. She signed a letter of intent this fall. Houle said many coaches asked about her intentions in Chicago and were disappointed to hear she was already committed to the Cougars.
Cheesman said she'd like to go onto play professional basketball, something Houle believes is an option for her."I believe Danielle's that good," he said. "She's one of the best players in the country . . . There's more that needs to happen, but she works hard. It would be tough to outwork Danielle. She does anything you ask of her."