So good, so soon: Only a sophomore, silky smooth Mporokoso leads Waubonsie to state for just the 2nd time

How important was sophomore guard Danyella Mporokoso to the Waubonsie Valley girls basketball team this season?

“I wish I could express in words how much trust and love I have for Dany as a teammate when the game is close or we are down,” Waubonsie Valley junior guard Lily Newton said. “I want the ball in her hands and I know she will do what she needs to help us win. Both myself and our team would not be where we are today without her.”

The 5-foot-7 Mporokoso, the captain of the 2024 Daily Herald DuPage County All-Area girls basketball team, indeed played a key role for a Warriors team that went 32-5, won the DuPage Valley Conference title with a perfect 10-0 mark, won regional, sectional and supersectional titles before finishing fourth in the state in Class 4A, the school’s second appearance in the state finals and first in a quarter-century.

“I look at her as a rocket with the basketball,” said Fremd coach Dave Yates, whose team defeated Waubonsie Valley in the Class 4A third-place game last weekend. “She’s very difficult to keep in front of you and is a kid who forces you to help off other kids on her. When you do that, those other kids could shoot the ball. She’s a pretty difficult matchup.”

Naperville North coach Aly Miller added: “Danyella is an elite player due to her high basketball IQ and feel for the game. She plays fast and aggressive and does a great job creating shots for herself, while also working to get her teammates open. She is the type of player who works extremely hard outside her two-hour practice slot and that pays off come game time.”

This season, Mporokoso averaged 19.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.6 steals, while shooting .347 from 3 (76-for-219) and .763 from the foul line on 156 attempts. In just 2 seasons, Mporokoso has scored 1,226 points and seems a shoe-in to burn past the 2,000-point barrier. Former NCAA Division I player Ashley Luke holds the school’s all-time scoring record at 2,885 points (1996-1999).

“Danyella is an elite player because of her ability to apply the things she learns,” Waubonsie Valley coach Brett Love said. “She’s fearless and tough. In training, if you give her a skill to master, she will work tirelessly at until it’s mastered. Her fundamentals and dynamic skills are at a high level. She’s a two-way player that can make her teammates better.”

But Love said the non-basketball side of Mporokoso is equally impressive. “Danyella is an amazing character kid,” he said. “She is well-liked by her teammates and teachers in the Waubonsie community. She is humble and is always looking out for others. She always looks for opportunities to pick up her teammates when they aren’t playing well or not feeling the best.”

Mporokoso noted a number of adjustments to her game have paid big dividends. “I have more confidence,” she said. “I also have become a lot more skillful with being able to pull up in space and make better reads. The beginning of the season was really tough with not noticing things and making passes later. I figured it out and got better with my passing.”

And with a notable season under her belt as a freshman, teams adjusted their defensive game plans this season. “It was a lot different than last year,” said Mporokoso, who noted her midrange moves, getting into space and executing pullbacks and step-backs are the best parts of her game. “Last year, one of the better people would guard me. This year, there were a lot more people in help to deny me. It was definitely a lot harder. Sometimes when I would get denied, I would go, ‘Dangit!’ Coach tells me to take it as a compliment because people are noticing me.”

Waubonsie senior forward Hannah Laub said Mporokoso’s competitiveness and work ethic set her apart and put her in that elite category — one where teams bring out the double teams and gimmick defenses.

“I like her competitive nature the most,” said Laub, who noted Mporokoso hitting a half-court shot in the regional semifinals. “She is always competitive, no matter what we are doing in practice. This helps push me and everyone else at practice. I am always a person who does what it takes to win and I think having her as another person with that mentality is always nice, too. Her work ethic makes her who she is. She is always wanting to get in extra work and is always asking questions to get better.”

While success has found Mporokoso in large quantities, the Warrior standout has other ideas on the topic.

“I have a lot of work to do still,” she said. “I can be a lot better and a lot more consistent.”

What can’t be much better is the season the Warriors had, Mporokoso noted.

“It was really rewarding,” said Mporokoso, a straight-A student during the first semester and a big fan of hibachi restaurants. “We all work really hard and have a lot of goals. We hold each other accountable. I play with people around me who are so talented. I have teammates who are there for me. My teammates made this season so much better.”

Love said the sky’s the limit for this super sophomore.

“She hasn’t come close to her potential,” he said. “She still has a long way to go and her ceiling is high. Danyella’s success from her work ethic and skill is just the beginning. She’s starting to read defenses better and starting to see two to three steps ahead of everyone else.”

“I forget all the time that she’s a sophomore,” Newton added. “I can hardly believe someone that young can have so much talent. She’s constantly pushing herself and has an amazing mindset, so I think she’ll easily double her talent and skill level of where she is now. I don’t know anyone who loves the game as much as she does and puts in as much work in as her. She truly loves playing and working for it.”

  Waubonsie Valley’s Danyella Mporokoso is the Daily Herald’s DuPage County girls basketball All-Area captain. Joe Lewnard/
  Waubonsie Valley’s Danyella Mporokoso is the Daily Herald’s DuPage County girls basketball All-Area captain. Joe Lewnard/
Waubonsie Valley's Danyella Mporokoso (10) shoots the ball in the post against Benet during a Class 4A Oswego Sectional final basketball game at Oswego High School on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024.
  Waubonsie Valley’s Danyella Mporokoso tries to get past Neuqua Valley’s Caitlin Washington in a girls basketball game in Aurora on Thursday, Feb. 1, 2024. John Starks/
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