Fast Break

Basketball star Daniels catching fire.


Watching Dalayah Daniels play basketball is like watching someone play a video game with a cheat code. The six foot four inch wing forward towers above everyone on the court while utilizing her signature spin move to blaze past opponents to the hoop. In her first season at Garfield, Daniels led the Bulldogs to a second place finish at state.
Daniels has a four star rating on and has been described as a “versatile interior performer,” “agile in uptempo game,” and as having “skilled offensive attack potential.” She has earned the attention of every team in the Pac-12 and schools in every other major conference. In February, she had an article solely about her published in the Seattle Times.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention that Daniels is only a sophomore and did not start playing the sport until the sixth grade.
Lee Adams, the head coach of Garfield Girls Basketball, is incredibly impressed with what he’s seen in her.
“There have been so many times in practices and games where I’ll look at my assistants and just go ‘wow, that was amazing,’” Adams said. “There’s just been so many [amazing plays] that I don’t want it to get to the point where I’m not impressed.”
Despite the huge spotlight that has been shoved upon her, Daniels remains incredibly humble and down to Earth.
“I always tell people I’m not meant for this life,” Daniels said. “I honestly don’t even like a lot of this publicity, or fame I guess you could say, but it’s a cool experience. Not everyone my age gets to experience that so I’m just taking it one step at a time and enjoying every moment.”
Growing up, Daniels says she never really cared for athletics and never saw herself as an athletic person despite living with six sisters and one brother who all played basketball. It wasn’t until middle school when she got some encouragement from her friends to give the sport a go that her basketball career took off.
“People were all like ‘you’re really good!’ but, you know, I really wasn’t,” Daniels said with a laugh. “So I stuck with it and I think it’s taken me pretty far. I’ve built a lot of relationships with people, and it’s not really just about on the court, you get a lot of benefits from playing any kind of sport. You build relationships and get to go different places.”
Adams, who refers to Daniels by her nickname Lay-Lay, loves the example Daniels sets at practice.
“In her desire to get better, as arguably our top player, everyone sees her working hard,” Adams said. “When we’re doing our sprints, she’s striving to be first all the time, and when she’s staying after and coming early and doing those types of things, it can’t help but rub off on everyone else and say ‘well, damn, if Lay-Lay is doing this, maybe I should be doing this too.’”
After spending her first year of high school at Rainier Beach, Daniels found her true home at Garfield after moving.
“My whole family went here and I was basically born a Bulldog,” Daniels said (she jokes that her dad was a “so-called star” for Garfield basketball back when helped the Bulldogs win a state title in 1974). “Unfortunately I had to be a Viking for a year, but just the family atmosphere here, I’m so comfortable, I just feel like I fit in.”
Daniels, a self-proclaimed crowd hater, got the Bulldogs to the state title game this year, or in other words, the game with the largest crowd possible for high school basketball.
“It was very nerve wracking,” Daniels said of the state championship game. “But at the same time anxiety and excitement are like the same thing for me. When I’m excited and scared I just have to hold myself down and realize I’m meant to be here. I just feel like I’m in my backyard and act like no one is there.”
Coming out of that state game with a second place finish, however, did not satisfy Dalayah Daniels the competitor.
“I always want to come first,” Daniels said. “It hurts even more when you’re right there to be first and you’re just not. I’d rather be third than second. I don’t want to come second in anything. It was obviously a good experience, but it still hurts.”
Nevertheless, Daniels is already using this pain to fuel optimism for what should be a bright season with the team next year.
“I’m just gonna keep working and try and get my team back and try and get us there next year,” Daniels said.