WARSAW — Siera Daniel joined Western’s girls basketball program as a senior already a veteran of the varsity game.
The post player was a contributor offensively at Taylor early in her career, but joining a Panthers’ squad already loaded with offensive weapons, Western coach Chris Keisling knew Daniel’s role would need to change to make the type of impact his guard-heavy squad needed.
It’s worked out as well as Keisling and the Panthers could have hoped for. Daniel has been a difference-maker defensively in the middle of Western’s 2-3 zone, elevating her play in a major way in her team’s run to the Class 3A state championship game.
“I don’t know what’s come over me, but I’ve stepped up and helped my team because I know they need me, and that’s extremely exciting for me,” Daniel said. “Once I got here, all of my teammates embraced me and made me feel like I was part of the family, and that’s what I love.”
Eligibility-wise, Daniel wasn’t able to return to game action until around Christmas break. Her role was an adjustment at first. She went to Keisling to discuss ways to enhance her role, and Keisling’s response had three basic tenets.
Keisling wanted Daniel to focus on rebounding, both defensively and on the weak side offensively. He wanted her to use her passing skills to the team’s advantage when defenses collapsed on her inside, kicking to Western’s array of capable shooters on perimeter. And he wanted her to use her lengthy 6-foot-2 frame to her advantage defensively in the middle of the zone, keeping opposing teams out of the paint and altering shots.
The last two weekends, Daniel has fulfilled that role as well as Keisling could’ve asked. In last weekend’s 46-35 win over Kankakee Valley in the regional championship, Daniel grabbed eight rebounds and blocked three shots to help solidify a strong defensive effort.