Bradley women’s basketball head coach Andrea Gorski already had already made up her mind the first time she saw freshman Tete Danso play.
“I remember the first time I saw her, the long arms running down the court in her junior year,” Gorski said. “I looked her up on the roster and wrote next to her, ‘No brainer.’”
In Gorski’s system, where playing defense and doing the little things are paramount, the forward from Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota has stood out as a clear favorite for minutes off the bench.
Danso, one of Bradley’s trio of freshmen and five newcomers overall, has played 50 minutes over the three games so far this season. With forward Emily Marsh sitting out with an injury, Danso has displayed the same affinity for defense and hustle plays as her senior teammate.
Though some coaches may hesitate to bestow big minutes on a freshman early in the season, Gorski is able to play Danso with confidence.
“Maybe other coaches value scoring and outside shooting, but you have to have players on the team that focus on the defensive end, getting extra possessions and doing all those little things,” Gorski said. “Defensive rebounding is always going to come first, so having someone like Tete just fits our style of play perfectly.”
More impressively, Danso led the team in rebounds through the first two games of the season with 18, seven of them coming on the offensive glass. At 5-feet-11-inches, the freshman is one of the shorter forwards on the Braves’ roster, but she possesses a Giannis Antetokounmpo-like trait that allows her to clean the glass.
“It’s just natural athleticism; I can’t help it,” Danso said with a laugh. “My body moves faster than my brain at times.”
During her career at Simley High School, south of St. Paul, Minnesota, Danso outmatched her competition, averaging a double-double and picking up two all-state honors. However, before turning to basketball, she played two sports that had very little in common with hoops: figure skating and golf.
Due to her experience playing sports without teammates, Danso took on a learning curve at the genesis of her basketball career and adapted to playing with a team. Her AAU squad made that considerably easier.
Danso and the Minnesota Metro Stars dominated the Midwestern circuit, with over half the team receiving Division I offers. Paige Bueckers, the Connecticut freshman and No. 1 overall player in the class of 2020, headlined the Stars and Danso credited her for making the team better.
“It was awesome,” Danso said. “You definitely want a point guard who can see the court like that. When you have that type of talent on your team, it makes you a better player yourself. It makes you more alert and makes your basketball IQ even higher.”
The Minnesota women’s prep basketball pipeline certainly has a pathway to Bradley, with Danso accompanying Elk River native, senior Gabi Haack. Three of Bradley’s forwards, in addition to Haack, are set to graduate in 2021, leaving a hole that Braves’ newcomers must eventually fill.
Danso, along with her fellow underclassmen forwards Isis Fitch, Sami Martin and Veronika Roberts, are still jockeying for positions to replace the losses the Braves will sustain following this season. While Danso plans to stick to her game right now, she soaks up as much as she can from the seniors, especially Nyjah White.
“She texts me right after the game,” Danso said. “I have small talks with her before practices and after games and anytime she can tell I’m getting frustrated, she always pulls me aside.”
In Bradley’s Red/White Scrimmage, Danso announced her arrival to the Hilltop with 11 points and only missing one shot from the field. She admitted that she does not hone her game on the offensive side, but like White, Danso does not need to light up the scoreboard for the team to feel her effects. Her coach can testify.
“She’s a high-character young woman and fits our culture very well,” Gorski said. “It’s easy to put her out there and play her. She inspires the rest of us to get after it, too.”