Crystal Dangerfield quick on her feet
Crystal Dangerfield was 7 months old when she took her first solo steps. A week later, she began trying to run.
And the speedy sophomore sensation hasn't slowed down since.
Dangerfield, a 5-foot-5 guard and the No. 7 prospect in the espnW HoopGurlz Terrific 25 for the 2016 class, stars for Blackman High School (Murfreesboro, Tenn.), the No. 3 team in the espnW 25 Power Rankings. She also was a member of USA Basketball's U16 national team that struck gold in Mexico over the summer.
Dangerfield, in fact, is so fast that even when she walks, her friends struggle to keep up.
"I get asked at school why I'm walking so fast," said the 15-year-old Dangerfield, who started walking six months sooner than her older sister. "But to me, it's a normal pace."
Dangerfield's speed translates to the basketball court. Even on a Blackman team loaded with elite athletes, Dangerfield's quickness -- especially her first three steps -- stands out.
She started all 31 games last season and used her velocity to get to the rim and set a school record with 450 points. She averaged a team-high 14.5 points to go with 3.4 assists and 3.2 steals.
Dangerfield helped her team finish 26-5, although Blackman got knocked out of the playoffs in the regional semifinals.
Next week, she'll try to lead the undefeated Lady Blaze (12-0) to the title at the loaded Naples Holiday Shootout in Florida.
Blackman coach Chad Hibdon said Dangerfield, who has a 3.8 GPA, is extremely goal-oriented.
"She is always ready to go from Point A to Point B," Hibdon said. "She's ready to go from algebra class to English. She's ready to go from conditioning to basketball practice.
"She gets excited about what is coming up next -- no matter what it is."
That was the case recently when her team had the night off. Dangerfield wanted to go scout one of Blackman's upcoming opponents and was buried in disappointment when she learned the game had been postponed due to a snowstorm.
That seems to be the only thing that could possibly stop Dangerfield, who last season made all-state and was voted to the conference and region all-tournament teams.
She has also been a standout for the Tennessee Flight, helping her summer team win AAU nationals in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2012.
Her parents, Christopher and Davonna, both served in the U.S. Army but are no longer in the military. They met at an army base in Fort Eustis, Va., and were both deployed to Saudi Arabia in 1990 and '91 during the time of the Gulf War.
"It was dangerous because Scud missiles were being fired," Davonna said. "But it was not nearly as dangerous as those who served on the frontline."
Crystal was born in 1998 and quickly made her mark as an athlete. If all goes according to plan, she will be the second person in her family to play big-time college ball, according to her mother. Davonna's cousin, Jimmy Gary, played running back for West Virginia in the mid-1990s, rushing for 1,104 yards in his three-year career.
I get asked at school why I'm walking so fast. But to me, it's a normal pace.Crystal Dangerfield
Crystal, who has an older brother and the aforementioned older sister, already has received numerous scholarship offers from big-time colleges. Although she is not close to making a decision, she and her parents have made unofficial visits to Vanderbilt, Louisville, Tennessee and Mississippi.
"It's exciting to watch her play," Davonna said, "but the recruiting process can be overwhelming.
"We want to make sure it remains a happy process for her. She doesn't talk to college coaches on the phone. We want to make sure we know who is in her ear."
Mostly what's in Crystal's ear is music. She plays the keyboards for fun and otherwise is focused on school -- she wants to become a nurse -- and basketball.
Dangerfield said college coaches are surprised when they hear about her plans to study medicine.
"They find it very rare that I have my major already in mind because I'm only 15," Dangerfield said. "They also find it rare because it's a harder major than most athletes select.
"But I figure basketball doesn't last forever, and I've always wanted to be a doctor or a nurse."
While it may be unusual for Dangerfield to already have a plan for college, it falls in line with the rest of her personality. She is advanced, focused and intense.
In fact, sometimes too intense.
Hibdon said he and his players will often joke about whether it's safe on a particular day to make a joke around Dangerfield.
"She can be in the weight room in the summer, and you will hear her tell her teammates: 'C'mon, guys, we need to be serious right now,'" Hibdon said.
"I've talked to her and told her that you can't be too serious or too loose. Sometimes in the summer or in a huddle, we try to lighten the mood. But I like players who are intense. I'd much rather have those types of players than ones who don't care."
Hibdon said Dangerfield has no glaring weaknesses on the court and just needs to work on her consistency.
He also said her low center of gravity and her ever-present speed allow her to blow by just about any opponent at this level.
"Last season, we emphasized her mental toughness, and we're trying to continue to develop that," he said.
"Even a kid as talented as she is, we're working on her continuing to be a high-IQ point guard, getting through those bad plays that our team may have and not letting any situation disrupt her mindset."
Jazz Bond, a 6-2 sophomore forward for Blackman, has known Dangerfield for seven years and is proud of her buddy's accomplishments.
"She's a talented player, she shares the ball well, and she is really smart, too," Bond said. "She will make it far in life."