Danee Leary has a picture-perfect shot.
The senior on the Butte Central girls’ basketball team is capable of going off for big-time numbers, as is evident by her 26-point performance against Corvallis during her junior season.
BC coach Meg Murphy says the shot is reminiscent of Leary’s father, Dan, a 1989 Butte Central graduate who was one of the school’s all-time great 3-point shooters.
“She has that natural shot, like Danny,” Murphy says. “She’s very fluid like he was. If she makes her first one, you better set up about five screens for her for the next five possessions because she’ll drain them. I watched her beat Belgrade by herself this summer. In the first half she had seven or eight threes.”
Leary, though, would rather be stopping opponents from making shots.
“I love defense,” she says. “I’m competitive and aggressive, and I like to be mean a little bit. I like to shoot around the perimeter, too, but I like defense, boxing out and rebounding, that kind of stuff.”
That is music to the ears of Montana Tech coach Kerie DePell, who recently signed Leary to play for the Orediggers.
“Danee is a great signing for us,” DePell says. “She not only is an excellent athlete, but is also very skilled with the ball. She can shoot it from three, has no fear driving to the basket and has a natural feel for the game. She’s extremely competitive and isn’t afraid of hard work.”
Murphy, who coached the Orediggers in between two stints as head coach of the Maroons, echoes DePell.
“She’s a great player,” Murphy says of Leary. “If I was a college coach, I’d take her in a heartbeat.”
Murphy and Leary both say the BC player got a ton of her competitive fire from her mother, Billyjo (Jovanovich) Thompson, who was known for her hard-nosed defense and rebounding while playing for the Anaconda Copperheads in the early 1990s.
“That’s BillyJo in her,” Murphy says with a laugh. “She was mean, just mean.”
“She was strong, tough down low,” Leary says of her mother’s basketball career. “I try to be as aggressive as I can.”
Leary, whose aunt Julie (Leary) Nadeau led the Maroons in a win over Butte High in the fall of 1987, says her “mean streak” is isolated to the court.
“I don’t like to lose,” she explains. ” I’m totally zoned in during the game.”
Leary averaged 10.5 points for the Maroons in the regular season last year.
This year, the Maroons, who lost Brynne Kambich and Kacie McKeon to graduation, are counting on even more from Leary as they open the 2012-13 season Friday at Saturday at the Butte Central Tip-Off Tournament in Butte.
“We force her to do a lot of different things,” Murphy says.
Leary was also BC’s do-it-all player in volleyball, leading the Maroons with 263 kills and 231 digs during the regular season.
She ranked second in the Southwestern A in digs and fourth in the league in digs. She earned first-team All-State honors to help the Maroons qualify for the Class A State tournament for the first time in school history.
“I played right side last year and I played outside this year,” Leary says, trying to explain the rare combination of kills and digs. “I played back row this year, too.”
Through it all, though, Leary sees herself as a basketball player. She puts in long hours in the offseason to improve her game.
“She just works hard,” Murphy said. “She flat goes as hard as she can go. She’s so athletic and physically strong. She’s fun to watch.”
Leary saw a ton of playing time as a bench player as a sophomore, helping the Maroons win the Class A State title. Leary started all but one game as a junior — she missed a win at Hamilton because of a concussion — and the Maroons went 40-8 over the past two seasons.
Leary says she doesn’t feel extra pressure to keep up that pace of winning now that she’s a senior. Part of that, she says, is because she’s one of seven seniors on the BC roster. Hannah Stajcar, Alysea Pica, Annie Ossello, Danika Neumann, Aleesha LaBreche and Mariah Cooney are the others.
“We have all have different rolls, and we all lead in different ways,” Leary says. “I think if we all work together as a team, we’ll be successful.
“It’s different than last year. We lost some height, but we’re going to be quick, and we’ve got a lot of shooters.”
At Tech, Leary will get to live a dream come true. Since she was little she wanted to play college basketball. She’ll study accounting or chemistry to eventually go into pharmacy school.
She’ll also give the Orediggers a pretty shot and a whole lot of defense.
“She is a wonderful fit for our program and our school,” DePell says. “I couldn’t be more excited for her to come to Montana Tech next season.”
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