Lost year doesn't set back ex-Viking
Tue. November 06, 2012 at 3:07 p.m. | By By Robert Demetrious | StarNews Correspondent
Hoggard’s Danielle Bongiorno is now shooting for Lenoir-Rhyne. (Photo by Photo by Phil Robinson/SportsFotos)
Despite being one of the smallest players on the basketball court throughout her career, Danielle Bongiorno grew into one of the area's best for the Hoggard Vikings. But as an all-conference performer poised to lead the Vikings toward a Mideastern Conference title, Bongiorno's senior season came to an abrupt halt.
Before school started, Bongiorno took to the court with her summer travel team. As she had done countless times before, she pushed the pace on a fast-break attempt. When approaching the basket, she executed her patented jump-stop in the paint. As she landed, her left knee crumpled under her.
Through excruciating pain, she attempted to play in her team's championship game, but the first time she tried to jump, she heard a pop.
With a torn ACL and unsure of the future, she contemplated quitting on herself and her dreams of playing college basketball.
Prior to her injury, Bongiorno garnered interest from several CAA programs, including UNCW. But without a true commitment to fall back on, and questions about her health, she was forced to go on the offense, running a play outside the playbook to make her dreams of playing college basketball a reality: go viral.
Bongiorno sent YouTube clips of herself to prospective college coaches. Once she realized Division I was not a realistic option, she just wanted an opportunity to play on any level.
"I didn't know anything about or even heard of Lenoir-Rhyne," Bongiorno said of the school in Hickory. "But I talked to the coaches and held on to the faith. It was a good opportunity with good basketball and a unique opportunity. They took a chance on me and it has turned out to be a true blessing."
Now a member of the Bears, a Division II program in the South Atlantic Conference, Bongiorno had direction on her road to recovery. Eight months after sustaining her injury, she began practicing with the UNCW women's team during the summer break. When Bongiorno arrived on campus at Lenoir-Rhyne, she made a pledge that she would return only when she was 100 percent in order to not be a risk to herself or the team.
"I wasn't going to use a brace and wasn't going to play until I was back to where I was prior to the injury," said Bongiorno. "I needed to be confident in myself and my knee."
Bongiorno has fully recovered from tearing her ACL and is playing with zero restrictions. She played in all 27 games her freshman season and shared time as a starter last season.
Bongiorno enters her junior season in a battle for the starting point guard position with an established senior. But after a traumatic knee injury and months of rigorous rehabilitation, this is sure to be a layup for the young point guard.
Though her injury took her down an unexpected path, Bongiorno appreciates the journey and is thriving on and off the court.
"I grew in so many ways that I wouldn't have if I hadn't tore my ACL," said Bongiorno. "God has a plan for me and I have peace in my faith and whatever will happen, will happen. This is where I am supposed to be and I couldn't be happier."