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St. Michael’s Danielle Vigil signs to play basketball at Adams State

For 6-foot-1 St. Michael’s senior Danielle Vigil, her career game at West Las Vegas brought her the opportunity to play basketball at Adams State

Always learning, always improving, she’s happy to get a chance to play for the Division II Grizzles in Colorado

Arnie Leshin

By Arnie Leshin | April 13, 2017

Photo Credit: Sean Dipalma

She was the tallest player on the court, but Adams State head girl’s basketball coach Larry Joe Hunt was in the West Las Vegas gymnasium checking out perhaps No. 11, 5-foot-7 Janika Padilla of the home team.

But it didn’t him long to notice No. 33, St. Michael’s 6-1 senior post Danielle Vigil. In her fourth year of playing basketball, she was having a career night. Aside from her, there was not another player on either lineup over 5-8.

“She was having the game of her life,” said her dad, Ruben Vigil. “Nineteen points, nine rebounds, three blocks, and she was perfect (7-for-7) from the foul line.”

And not long after the game ended, Coach Hunt made his way over to Vigil, introduced himself, spoke to her dad, and from several other schools that had contacted her, the Grizzlies had now moved up to the top of the list.

A Division II school in Alamosa, Colo., that has won numerous national championship in various sports, Adams State appealed the most to Danielle and her mom and dad.

Early in April they took the 2 ½-hour drive there, were overly impressed by the picturesque campus and athletic facilities, and Danielle decided she was going to take her 4.0 grade-point-average and continue her education as a Grizzle.

“She just loved the school,” said her dad, “and was especially happy that they had chili up there.”

On Wednesday morning at St. Michael’s, she signed on the dotted line for Adams State. She will major in several biological subjects.

“I had sent a letter to Coach Hunt,” she said, “but that was before I knew anything about Adams State, and I wrote him about maybe there might be an opportunity for me at his school. I was also in contact with New Mexico Highlands and Eastern New Mexico.”

But once she met the coach, she thought it were be awesome if she could play for him, and she felt it was also her best opportunity.

“When we went up there,” she said, “I just had the feeling that this was where I wanted to be, and my mom and dad were very happy with my decision. The people were very friendly, and I felt this was the place for me both academically and athletically.”

The niece of Nick Pino, the former 6-11 St. Michael’s legend who still holds the school’s single-game record of 80 points (is second-best all-time in the state), he has been following her progress through the years.

At mid-court, Daniellel taps the ball

“She’s had several injuries that set her back,” Pino said, “especially last season when a twisted left ankle had her wearing a boot and not playing late in the season. But I made it over to St. Michael’s to watch her twice her junior year, and twice this season. I’m very happy for her going on to Adams State, a good school.”

What uncle Nick noticed was how hard she tried to improve her game, never being a quitter, always hustling up and down the court, and head coach Martin Romero also finding praise for her divine effort.

Before each season, the long-time coach would find only positives for Danielle, always in her corner. He never said she had a bad game, always said she was getting better and will get even better.

Which is no doubt what Coach Hunt is thinking.

He and his staff will be the latest to work with Danielle. Richard Martinez, the former head coach of the boy’s basketball team at Espanola Valley, had worked with her during the summer months and said she was an instrumental individual. Her dad added that Martinez was a big influence for his daughter.

Vigil lays the ball in over the defender

Sara Baca, who played for the Lady Horsemen and is now the athletic director for the Santa Fe public schools, also offered assistance.

Same with Kevin Hauck, now an assistant football coach at St. Michael’s and who played the sport at Adams State, introducing Ruben to Martinez.

Then there’s Jordan Romero, Martin’s son who starred for the Horsemen, teaching her the “spin move,” and other key ingredients of the game.

And Coach Romero felt that Danielle could be a good choice for some college because of her constant improvement and willingness to learn.

“One thing,” he said, “she’s very coachable, very dedicated. In fact, she’s harder on herself than I’ve ever been on her. But she’s never given up, has become a student of the game.

Not only that, but she’s also become more athletic. She has been throwing the discus and shot put the past two years for the track and field team, and is currently on the golf team for the first time. Because of these additions, her dad said she’s getting more experience and confidence.

“My wife, Diana, is very excited about all this happening,” Ruben said. Their daughter was also a member of St. Michael’s Pony Express dance team until ninth grade when she went out for basketball. Her dad said she was about 5-10 or 5-11 at that time. Now she’s grown into a Grizzle.

Her motto, live and learn. And as the late Jim Valvano said: “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.”

Not to forget that presently at St. Michael’s is freshman Ryan, Danielle’s brother. He stands 6-feet, is currently on the golf team, but intends to try out for basketball next season. His dad said he could stretch to maybe 6-5, 6-6.

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