Westlake girls' basketball coach Sean Anderson said every college basketball scout who has come to watch No. 8 Westlake play this season has asked him the same question after the game.
"It's always, 'Who's the tall redhead?' " Anderson said. "We've had quite a few college scouts at our games this year, and when they talk to me afterward, it's inevitable that Danielle's name comes up."
That would be Danielle Sturman, a 6-foot senior center who is affectionately called "Big Red" by her teammates.
Although scoring leaders Kaleigha Gray (16.3 points per game) and Nicole Hester (13.9) and lightning-quick point guard Ashley Thompson initially draw the scouts' attention, Sturman is impossible not to notice. She is the Wolverines' X-factor.
Sturman's play inside, along with backup Jaimee McDowell, could prove key to the Wolverines' playoff success when the Maryland 3A South Region tournament opens tomorrow.
For all of Westlake's talent and athleticism, without Sturman and McDowell (5-11) the Wolverines would have a very difficult time matching up with their closest competitor, Patuxent, and the Panthers' 6-foot-2 duo of Charese Baldwin and Amanda Robinson.
"Big Red does a lot for us," Gray said. "I know she isn't talked about as much by other people as some of the rest of us are, but she's definitely not underappreciated by us. Red, she holds her own. She does a lot of things that people don't see."
Sturman is a tireless worker with a clean jump shot, a great rebounding sense and just enough of a competitive spark to offset her friendly and funny demeanor.
"Danielle might be the best all-around athlete that we have," Anderson said. "Most of our girls have chosen to major only in basketball, but she is also a tremendous volleyball and softball player. She brings more athleticism to a team that is already athletic. And there's nothing I have to say to Danielle to get her focused. She has a little bit of a complex, I think, about not getting as much respect as she deserves. But she is happy to go out and take it to the floor to prove people wrong."
Sturman, with 9.1 points a game, ranks third on the team in scoring. Although Anderson said he has shied away from keeping individual statistics this season, he estimated that she also leads the team in rebounding at about 10 per game.
"I don't get the attention that some of the other girls do, but I don't worry about it or get upset because I feel like I do make a big contribution to the team," Sturman said. "All I'm worried about right now is getting back to the state tournament. The last two years, we went to states and we didn't win, but this year I just feel like it's our turn. It's going to take all of us working as a team and playing with intensity to get there, but I'm more than ready to do my part."