ORONO, Maine — University of Maine sophomore post player Danielle Walczak, an America East All-Rookie team selection two years ago and one of the team’s leading scorers this season, has decided to leave the women’s basketball program.
However, she will remain at the school and pursue her degree in journalism.
The 6-foot-1 Walczak said she had been on an athletic scholarship but is giving up her grant.
“It was a hard decision because basketball has been such a huge part of my life for a very long time. I put a lot of thought into my decision over a period of time,” said Walczak, whose 10.4 points-per-game average tied her with Ashleigh Roberts for the team scoring lead last season.
The 20-year-old Walczak, who was second on the team in rebounds per game (5.5), played in just 19 of Maine’s 28 games because of an ankle injury that required surgery last month.
“My ankle is healing fine. It didn’t play a huge part in my decision,” said Walczak. “There were a lot of reasons behind it. It was personal. It just wasn’t the right fit for me.
“It didn’t have anything to do with my teammates,” added Walczak. “It just wasn’t as much fun as I wanted it to be any more.”
Walczak said she began contemplating leaving the program during her freshman season.
“But I kept with it. I didn’t want to make any rash decisions,” said Walczak. “I still liked basketball but not as much as I used to for a lot of different reasons. I gave it another season but a lot of those same reasons were still there.”
Her short career at Maine was marred by injury and illness. She dealt with mononucleosis, a concussion and a stress fracture in addition to her ankle injury.
“We’re very sorry we aren’t going to have her but I understand the thought that went into it. I was very, very proud of the effort she gave us,” said Maine coach Richard Barron. “She has faced a lot of challenges. It’s hard to put in all the time and commitment she put in for a diminished return with an ankle that wasn’t very stable. She played through a lot of pain.”
Barron noted that there were times they kept her off the practice floor so she could play in games.
He said between the injuries, the travel and the commitment involved, “it’s very tough when you have to have to constantly say no to other things you want to be involved in at the college.”
Walczak is looking forward to having more free time and intends to spend a lot of it “pursuing more journalistic avenues to help my career and my future.”
She said she enjoys the school and the community.
Walczak said it’s going to be “different” not playing next season but she intends to go to games and support the team.
Walczak, who averaged 5.8 points and 4.7 rebounds as a freshman, scored 1,199 points at Oyster River High School in Durham, N.H., where she averaged 19.2 points, 8.9 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 3.5 blocked shots and 3.3 steals per game.
“She is a terrific girl and she’s very, very smart. She’s well-liked and well-respected,” said Barron. “If she was healthy, she would have had a chance to be an all-conference player this year.”
Walczak said she was pleased with what she was able to accomplish in her two seasons.
“I definitely improved in my two years and I learned so much. I’m obviously thankful to coach Barron and everyone involved in the program. I grew a lot as a basketball player and personally,” said Walczak. “And I think the basketball program is headed in the right direction. Everyone is working really hard.”