FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Here's a trivia question: how many Division I women’s basketball teams in the country have more wins than the Arkansas Razorbacks?
“When we put the schedule together, there was never a talk of we’re going to be coming back from the Virgin Islands 8-0,” said Mike Neighbors, Arkansas head coach.
But that’s exactly where the Hogs sit after going 3-0 at the Paradise Jam, winning the Reef Tournament.
Leading the way there was senior guard Makayla Daniels.
Daniels brought the heat in the tropics, earning MVP honors while dropping 17 points per game. That included a season-high 21 points in a 76-62 win over Clemson.
“For me, it was just fun,” Daniels said. “That’s probably the loosest I’ve ever played since I’ve been here. It was just in the back of my mind, just enjoy the moment while we were there.”
The senior is playing loose and speaking up.
Daniels says she isn’t just letting her play do the talking this year.
She’s doing more actual talking as well with her teammates, embracing a larger leadership role as a senior.
“It’s become more vocal,” Neighbors said. “She’s always done it by example… but to find your voice it takes some time.”
“I had never really realized how many people really listened to me until this year,” Daniels said. “Just knowing that they’re waiting to hear my voice means a lot to me and that just means that they put in their trust in me.”
As Neighbors said, it was something that took Daniels some time to get used to as she played on teams with more veteran players than herself.
“Last year, I think I was a little bit uncomfortable in that position,” Daniels said. “I think this year I’ve realized it needs to come from me.”
It’s a big part of the Maryland native’s development, going from a low-ranked recruit to one of the stars of the team.
“If you put any stock in the stars and the rankings and all that, you would have a hard time finding her,” Neighbors said of Daniels’ recruitment. “But we knew what we had seen.”
And as the Hogs look to continue their hot start, Daniels makes sure to remember why she plays the game.
“I’m enjoying myself and I just want to be someone that people can look up to,” Daniels said.
“There’s a whole ‘nother group of people out there that can be inspired by what I think Makayla has done, and that’s why I want to keep telling her story as much as we can,” Neighbors said.