Before she set scores of national high school basketball records and shattered NCAA Division I three-point marks, Danielle Viglione had to learn one very important thing about her beloved sport.
“I had to learn how to shoot,” she said this week, laughing in reflection.
The 1993 Del Campo graduate learned through a unique school of hard knocks, staring down a glowering coach bearing a broom. Viglione was urged by then-Cougars coach Paul Romig to adjust her shot. Stop shooting from the hip, he’d holler, and shoot above your head or you’ll never make it.
To enforce his message, Romig would swat Viglione’s shot with that broom, held high above his head. He also instructed her to take hundreds of shots against a wall to hone her form.
Before long, the 5-foot-10 Viglione developed nearly perfect shooting form. She emerged as perhaps the region’s greatest long-range bomber and is mentioned with Denise Curry of Davis, Karen Smith of Rio Americano, Tesia Green of Grant and Sara James of Oak Ridge as one of the top players in regional history.
Viglione led the state in scoring in 1992 and ’93. Her 169 three-pointers in 1992 remain a national prep record. She once hit a national-record 14 three-pointers in a game. As a scholarship player at Texas, Viglione set collegiate three-point records. She was on the inaugural Sacramento Monarchs roster in 1997, then logged 10 seasons of professional duty overseas, wowing fans with her flair for the dramatic, all while soaking up the culture in Israel, Turkey and Italy.
Her body of work landed her in the Sac-Joaquin Section Hall of Fame three years ago and in the Sacramento Sports Hall of Fame on Friday night.
“I’m very touched and honored because basketball meant so much to me, and always will,” Viglione said of her honors.
Tired of living out of a suitcase, Viglione stepped away from the game as a player seven years ago, her most lucrative contract still on the table. She was at a sudden crossroads in her life. Where to go, what to do?
“When I retired from the game,” Viglione explained, “I was convinced that I’d never love anything more than basketball. This is my passion, what I love, and there’s no better adrenaline rush, that competitive feeling, having teammates, a feeling that nothing else matters. I never thought anything could replace that, and I was worried.”
What she discovered rejuvenated her. As a co-owner of the Sacramento Skills Academy, Viglione is in her element. She still makes an impact in shorts, a T-shirt and high-tops. She teaches boys and girls of all ages how to shoot, how to move their feet on a basketball floor. She points out that the one aspect of sports every athlete can control is effort. Viglione’s succeess was rooted in drive.
“Know what I found out?” Viglione said. “I love teaching and helping others get better, showing them how great this game can be. I love it more than when I played, and I didn’t think that was possible. Good players, those trying to learn the game, those with high skill levels, low skill levels, it doesn’t matter. Basketball can teach life lessons. I just love what I’m doing.”
Viglione said she is moved by the reaction of her pupils, be it an 11-year old girl trying to figure out how to dribble with her head up or a high school boys player trying to perfect his shooting form.
“I love a text from a parent who says, ‘Thank you for the confidence you’ve given my child,’ ” Viglione said. “In this sport, you can really make yourself better by trying. You’re going to miss shots in this game, so keep working at it. Work on your entire game. You only fail when you stop trying.”
Viglione said she was driven as a child to compete and be the best. She recalled how her father, Dennis, a lawyer, would go out jogging when she was 8. He wondered if she could keep pace. She did. She grew up competing in everything with younger brother, Stefan.
“And I mean everything – hockey, basketball, football, eating mashed potatoes,” Viglione said.
Thinking back to her early Del Campo days and solving that broomstick obstruction, Viglione laughs. She said she is forever thankful to Romig, who now coaches girls basketball at Selma High near Fresno.
“He was just as obsessive about the game, getting better, as I was,” Viglione said. “He must have spent 3,000 hours with me, working on my game, before school, at practice. He knew I wanted to be the best I could be. I look back, and I’m happy with what I’ve done. I’m very proud.”
Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD.