It was a moment she won’t soon forget.
Danielle Patterson, a Marine Park native and a hoops star at The Mary Louis Academy in Queens, spent the last week in March in Chicago, competing in the annual McDonald’s All-American game. The annual tourney is always full of memories for talented young players, but for Patterson, the high point — one that reminded her of why she loves to play basketball — didn’t happen on the court, but before tipoff at a March 25 event at a Chicago-area Ronald McDonald House.
“I met this one girl and she must have been five or six years old,” Patterson said. “She loved basketball, and I was looking back at her and I was like, ‘wow, that was me.’ (When) I started playing basketball, I could barely dribble. Now I’m an All-American.”
Patterson’s basketball journey has been a long one, winding and challenging, but she says she wouldn’t trade a single second of it for anything; her All-American moment was proof positive that so far in her basketball career, she’s done everything right.
“When I was a little kid, you never think about anything like that,” Patterson said. “You’re playing just to play because you like it. Then, I think, as you get older and playing AAU and understanding the magnitude of it and the scholarship possibilities, you understand the importance of it. You know how far you can go.”
Patterson saw playing time during the All-American game and relished the opportunity to showcase her talent on a national stage against the best high school competition the sport has to offer.
“All those days in the gym that you’ve spent kind of paid off,” she said. “It was a really different experience, playing in that game and against all the other top players. You don’t get to do that very often.”
Patterson did her best to stay focused when she stepped onto the court at the United Center, but was quick to admit that the scene was just a bit overwhelming; after all, it’s not every day you get to play in front of an arena filled with fans — including LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. She hoped it was a glimpse into her not-too-distant future.
“You’re used to playing in a small high school gym and then you finally get on the court and you’re looking around and it’s an arena,” said Patterson, who will head to Notre Dame next season. “You see all the media and people sitting there and you know, in college, in a couple of months, this is going to be the norm.”
It was a whirlwind few days in the Windy City, but Patterson was grateful for the challenge and looks forward to playing the game she loves, even as she pauses to cherish some lingering memories.
“It all kind of happened in the blink of an eye,” Patterson said. “I still remember coming to Mary Louis and having all that hype and now to have done what I’ve done it’s been so good.”