Danny Vander Woude is not your ordinary 5-foot-9 point guard. But playing for Seton, a tiny Catholic junior-senior High School in Manassas, is far from an ordinary experience.
A team's point guard usually does not lead the team in scoring. But in Vander Woude's case, he leads the team in almost every offensive category. He is averaging 38.5 points, 4.8 assists and 4.7 steals per game. And he is the biggest reason why the private school is off to a 9-6 start.
The 150-pound senior has been a varsity player since seventh grade, mainly because the school has an enrollment of just over 100 in its six grades. He became a starter one year later, and now is the all-time leading scorer (2,635 points and counting) for the Conquistadors.
This year's senior class has only 13 students, and is a little smaller than usual, by a few students. But the Conquistadors are still able to be competitive in their 37-game schedule, thanks to some superb performances by Vander Woude. The senior scored a career-high 67 points in a 90-88 win over Tara-Reston last week. Teams have worked hard to shut down the high-scoring senior, and two weeks ago an effort finally worked. Vander Woude was held to a season-low 18 by Quantico. But in between the highs and lows were several 30 and 40-point performances, which would normally put an athlete in a class of a star. But not at Seton.
"Seton is such a small school you don't think about it," Vander Woude said. "I'm no different than any of my classmates and they don't think of me any differently than the other students."
But many of the things Vander Woude has been able to do at Seton he would have been unable to do at many other schools.
Because the school encourages athletes to play up on the varsity before their freshman year of high school, Danny was able to play with his older brothers Steve and Jim, who are both in college now. He currently plays with his younger brother Bobby, a sophomore swingman averaging close to 11 points a game. The coach of the team -- his dad Tom.
Coach Tom Vander Woude is another story. He is a full-time airline pilot for Eastern Airlines and the Conquistadors' coach on a volunteer basis. He started out at the recreation league level years ago when his oldest kids were youngsters. His volunteer status is one indication of how the sports program operates.
Seton holds fundraisers to pay for uniforms. It practices in a multi-purpose facility that is half the size of a normal basketball court and is carpeted. The Conquistadors play most of its games on the road, a one-hour ride on the average. When they do play at home, home is All Saints School's gym nearby in Manassas. The Conquistadors play a wide variety of teams, ranging from powers like Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore to schools of Seton's size, like Tara-Reston.
But that hasn't stopped Vander Woude, who has drawn raves from many of the teams he has played.
"If he was 6-10, you could say it was because of the competition," said Manassas Park Coach Chip Miller, whose club escaped with a 48-47 win over Seton despite 36 points from Vander Woude. "But even the smaller teams have good guards.
"We were after him all game but he has such a quick release and uses picks and sets himself up so well. He would not score as much if he were on other teams, but he could play for anybody (around here). He has to carry his team and he just goes out there and does it."
Coach Tom Vander Woude said he knew early on that Danny was something special.
"Back when all our kids were young and I was coaching a 10-and-under team (in Georgia), Danny was six and his two older brothers were also on the team. In his first game he dribbled to the top of the circle and swished a jumper."
Now he controls the ball and the Conquistadors' hopes 90 percent of the time, according to his dad. "He's well-schooled in the fundamentals from the basketball camps and what separates him is that he is never satisfied. He would bring back notebooks full of notes from the camps, always looking for things to improve on."
With his performances have come added attention from opposing defenses. The most common one is a box-and-one defense, with a rested defender on him at all times. When the Conquistadors played Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore in a recent tournament, he faced three different defenders, all of which played him man-to-man all over the court. Gibbons wore down Vander Woude and Seton, 92-49, but he still managed to score 26 points.
But the point guard still likes to get shots against the bigger teams. "We don't have a big gym, so its great to be able to go and take on big schools in bigger gyms.
His size appears to be a drawback because he gives up several inches to the opposition. But he tries to make it work to his advantage.
"I've learned to use my body real well to draw fouls, and going to the foul line is a big part of my game," Vander Woude said.
The senior has attempted 196 free throws in 15 games (a 13.1 average) and has made 163, almost 30 percent of his point total this season.
Vander Woude is a streak shooter, averaging 45 percent from the field and 36 percent on three-point field goal attempts. But when he becomes most dangerous is when the Conquistadors get a lead and they go to their four-corners offense.
"We often spread out the floor so I can take my man one-on-one," Vander Woude says. "That's when I really can drive and use my body to draw fouls."
The standout can't pinpoint a transition from an average scorer to becoming a carry-the-team type player. He refers to it as a "natural progression," but remembers a big game that gave him confidence.
"I was in ninth grade and we were playing Paul VI," Vander Woude recalled. "My brother Steve was the team's leading scorer and he fouled out. But I picked up the slack and scored 28 and we won by a point at the buzzer."
It wasn't until his junior year when Vander Woude would be a prolific scorer (33 points per game), and he carried Seton to a 14-9 mark. Along with his points were averages of six rebounds and five assists a game.
But his father insists his son is not playing selfish to get his points. "He is an excellent passer and is great at hitting the open man," Tom Vander Woude said, "but he just has great confidence in his shot."
If Vander Woude had decided to attend a public school, Brentsville is right across the street from his house. But the senior has no regrets.
"I get a chance to play kids from the area in the summer, and we occasionally play teams from the area," Vander Woude said. "I never been at a large school so I have nothing to compare (Seton) to. But it's been a great atmostphere here and getting the chance to play with my brothers and for my dad has been great."