Wilson steps down to pick Dowling up

Dowling's Danielle Wilson (23) attempts a free throw Dowling's Danielle Wilson (23) attempts a free throw during a game against NYIT. (March 10, 2013) Photo Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

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Former Baylor women's basketball star Danielle Wilson of Bay Shore is returning to Texas -- and she's bringing along her new team.

Wilson has led Dowling to its first NCAA Division II Elite Eight appearance, and the Golden Lions (28-3) will face Colorado Mesa (30-1) Tuesday.

The game will take place on the campus of St. Mary's University in San Antonio, about 180 miles from Baylor, where Wilson played three years before returning home to raise her son.

Wilson immediately adapted to basketball outside Division I. "Not once did she ever say, 'I'm from Baylor,' " coach Joe Pellicane said.

After a road game, Pellicane recalled, Wilson "gets out from the van, she goes to the back, gets the uniform bag and wheels it in. Then she goes back and gets the medicine kit."

At Baylor, Wilson played in the 10,284-capacity Ferrell Center. Dowling plays in an 800-seat gymnasium next door to its Oakdale campus on land owned by St. John's University.

"You know the 'Hoosiers' movie," athletic director Rick Cole Jr. said. "It's 10 feet up from the ground to the rim. When you are under the pile of your peers [celebrating] for achieving something collectively, there's your reward."

Wilson, a 6-3 forward who leads the team in scoring (17.2) and rebounding (11.2), said, "I wasn't expecting any special treatment. At the same time, it was a great opportunity for me to come back to school."

In the NCAA Division II East Regional in Waltham, Mass., Dowling beat New York Institute of Technology, 62-51; Stonehill, 57-45, and Bentley, 53-51, to reach the Elite Eight. Wilson averaged 19.3 points and 16.7 rebounds and shot 22-for-35 from the field in the three games.

Wilson said her teammates asked her if they should bring cowboy boots to Texas. Certainly, they will need to bring their "A'' game. But there is no inferiority complex about being only the second team from the conference to make the nationals. Then-NYCAC member St. Rose did it in the 1999-2000 season.

"Dowling is an underdog, but when we throw the ball up, it's a basketball game," Pellicane said.

Added sophomore guard Christine Verrelle, "We believe that we deserve to be there with all those teams."

Verrelle was referred to Dowling by Pellicane's daughter Lauren, a former Villanova player who coaches high school basketball in Philadelphia. The other starting guard is Connie Simmons, whose grandfather played for the Knicks. She scored 19 points against Stonehill.

Pellicane, who coached the men's team at Dowling before switching to the women's game, goes for the right fit. "I make sure [recruits] know who we are," he said. "I don't want them to come here and say, 'Excuse me, we don't have laundry service. Excuse me, I really have to go to class?' If it's the aesthetics that keep one from coming to your place, that's fine. Dowling's not for everyone. Notre Dame's not for everyone."

Now women's basketball has the chance to join Dowling's other national championships in men's soccer and lacrosse. Dowling could even do it in the same year as Baylor. Wilson, who still keeps in touch with some of her old teammates, said, "That would be great, actually."

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