CEDAR FALLS — Win or lose, Sunday was going to be special for Dani Franklin. With Valparaiso now a member of the Missouri Valley Conference, the Cedar Rapids Washington alumna returned to her home state for the first time this week as a collegiate athlete when the Crusaders traveled to Des Moines to play Drake on Friday.
Two days later, Franklin, with the support of many friends and family in attendance, scored 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds in a 77-56 loss to Northern Iowa (6-7, 2-0).
“It’s really nice to be back in Iowa,” said Franklin, a senior forward. “Great conference change. The Missouri Valley Conference is a great conference. It’s good to be able to come home for these two games and then have (my family) come to Valpo, too. It’s a fun experience.”
Franklin’s career at Valparaiso (7-6, 0-2) has been record-breaking. The 2013-14 McDonald’s All-American nominee was the Horizon League’s freshman and sixth player of the year in 2014-15. Franklin was second-team All-Horizon as a junior after leading the Crusaders in points, rebounds, steals, 3-point and free throw percentage. Her 86-percent mark from the free throw line last season broke Valparaiso’s single-season record, and with her last field goal in Sunday’s loss she’s now tied for third on Valparaiso’s all-time scoring list.
“It means a lot,” Franklin said. “A lot of credit to my teammates and my coaches, you know they do a great job with setting me up and giving me the ball. I just (have) got to keep finishing. They’re great accomplishments.”
Franklin and the Crusaders played from behind for most of the afternoon. Entering the fourth quarter trailing 51-39, they pulled within seven on a Franklin layup. However, the Panthers went on a 17-5 run over the last 4:20 to grab their second conference win in as many games.
“I think I felt better about our rebounding, personally, as a team in the fourth quarter,” Franklin said. “In the first half we struggled a little bit with the rebounding piece, but second half we picked it up a little bit and we were having stretches when we were moving forward with the ball in our hands.”
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With only 17 guaranteed games left in her collegiate career, it’s hard to think outside the day-to-day process she’s currently locked into. The Crusaders have big goals for what’s left of their first season in the MVC, however once the lights go off on Franklin’s career she’s leaning toward an attempt to stay involved with the game she loves.
“I think I want to be a coach,” Franklin said. “I have a degree in education right now, so I’ll be student-teaching this next semester, but I think I want to try the coaching route. Maybe be a grad assistant somewhere.”