Sunday, February 03, 2002

It's a Cincinnati State of mind

College update

By Shannon Russell
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The phone rarely stops ringing in Gary McDaniel's Cincinnati State office.

        McDaniel, women's basketball head coach, speaks daily with the 10 Lady Surge players, organizes schedules and aggressively recruits. McDaniel, also director of student activities, coordinates intramurals, books guest speakers and oversees student government.

        He doesn't mind working seven days a week, especially when it comes to basketball. If an extra day on the job means a step closer to a National Junior College Athletic Association championship, it's worth it.

        “I'm a workaholic,” McDaniel said. “I don't think you can win, year in and year out, without working hard."

        McDaniel recruited every player on his roster, from Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Virginia. He has done as much throughout his nine-year tenure, visiting each player personally.

        He has dedicated so much time to the program that aspiring basketball players have started recruiting him as a coach.

        “I've never had a coach like this, and I've gone through a lot of coaches,” said sophomore forward Pam Brannen, a Mount Notre Dame graduate and Gulf Coast Community College transfer. “It's nice to know you can go to him with problems because he's so understanding. I would stay with this program all four years if I could."

        Most of McDaniel's players stay for two years to work on academics and basketball. Last year, four of his five seniors went on to Division I colleges to play basketball. This year, all five seniors are slated to make the transition.

        The successful Lady Surge program is a big part of their resumes. Cincinnati State is 18-4 and No.1 in the Ohio Community College Athletic Association at 9-0.

        McDaniel's teams have won the league three of the last four seasons and the conference tournament title four straight seasons. They advanced to the NJCAA Sweet 16 three times in four seasons and the Elite Eight in 2000-2001.

        “It's extremely hard, because I gain a relationship with these players, and they work to learn the system. Then they move on,” McDaniel said. “I have to start over every year.”

        He also struggles with anonymity. When Cincinnati basketball comes up in conversation, Cincinnati State doesn't always make the cut.

        “I grew up in Cincinnati, and I didn't even know how successful they've been,” Brannen said.

        “I don't think a lot of people know about it,” Mason graduate Racquel Ellis said. “But I chose to come here so I wouldn't have to sit out a year. I'm still playing and learning.”

        Ellis, an East Tennessee State transfer, averages 8.4 points and 3.4 assists. The sophomore guard recently committed verbally to play at Kentucky.

        Top scorer and sophomore Christina Estrict (19.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists) is entertaining several Division I offers. Brannen (6.8 points, 5.9 rebounds), Alicia Binion (7.7 ppg) and Stacy Moore (3.6 ppg) are also planning to play Division I ball.

        McDaniel is five wins away from his 200th. It could come Feb. 16 in the last regular-season game — homecoming — against Cuyahoga Community College.

        The home-court advantage alone could be the clincher. The Lady Surge are riding a 38-game home winning streak.

        “We don't lose at home, period,” said McDaniel, who played at Princeton High School and Cincinnati State. “I think we're the best-kept secret in town. When people see us play, they're always surprised. I've had people come up to me and say. "I had no idea you had this kind of program.' ”

        This season, he says, he has the right personnel and the chemistry to reach the NJCAA championships.

        “We have the ability to match up with anybody on the court,” McDaniel said. “You catch us on the right day, and there's nobody in the country we can't play with.


        Vassar College's Bea Milligan (Lakota East) broke a school record for career steals Jan. 12, swiping seven against Upstate College Athletic Association foe Hamilton for 234 total. Milligan, a senior guard, has 51 steals in 16 games.

        Cameron Vincent (Indian Hill), a No. 1 singles and doubles player for Denison University and a first-team North Coast Athletic Conference selection, became an ITA Scholar-Athlete All-American by posting a 3.5 GPA.

        Paul Loehle (Badin), an Ohio Wesleyan freshman, was part of the men's track and field distance medley team that shattered a school record. The Bishops finished in 10:33.39, breaking a 1982 record of 10:35.04.


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