Prep Basketball

Former Xavier trio thriving at basketball's 'next level'

HS journalism: Caitlynn Daniels, Libby Arnold, Aubrey Jones living their dreams

Former Xavier standout Caitlynn Daniels, driving up court last season, has started 13 of Alabama-Birmingham's first 14 g
Former Xavier standout Caitlynn Daniels, driving up court last season, has started 13 of Alabama-Birmingham’s first 14 games. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Many young athletes dream of getting to play in college and look up to those players who have accomplished that goal.

Three college athletes from the Cedar Rapids Xavier Class of 2020 are representing the Saints’ girls’ basketball program at the next level.

Caitlynn Daniels is at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, Libby Arnold is at William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo., and Aubrey Jones is at Coe College, each fulfilling their childhood dreams. This is the first graduating class to have someone continue at the NCAA Division I, II and III levels.

“Basketball-wise the transition has been a big adjustment,” Daniels said. “The pace of the game is so much faster and there is so much more expected of each player. Everyone at this level is really good so everyday you have to show up and be ready to go.”

Daniels has been in the starting lineup for 10 of the Blazers’ 14 games and recently received Conference USA Freshman of the Week honors. She averages 8.1 points per game.

Daniels tore her ACL her senior season at Xavier and rehabbed for seven months in order to get to where she is today.

“We try to teach resilience and fighting through adversity,” Xavier girls’ basketball coach Tom Lilly said. “Going from a senior to a college freshman can be difficult. We hope they learned enough skills and how to play the game that they can adapt easier to the next level.”

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Lilly has been keeping up with the girls through the livestreaming of their games to see how they have transitioned to college.

“All three of them have great work ethic. They are coachable and have a passion for the sport of basketball,” Lilly said. “Without their passion and desire, they would have headed off to college with no interest to continue to play at a high level.”

Arnold, who has played in 13 of William Jewell’s first 14 games, credits Xavier for preparing her for college classes and a higher level of basketball.

“The transition has been really easy for me because Xavier prepared me really well,” she said. “In college, you have a lot more free time to work on assignments and prepare for tests or projects.

“Xavier basketball taught me a lot of life lessons that can be used on and off the court: how to be a good teammate and how to build a good work ethic.”

The three hope they left a lasting impression on the program.

“Leadership was a big thing for Caitlynn, Aubrey and I,” Arnold said. “We really wanted to build an atmosphere that was positive both on and off the court. We put in time outside of practices or games because we genuinely cared that much for the game and for the success of our team.

“We wanted to build a family, lead them on the court and help them with whatever they needed off the court. I personally strived to be a good role model for all the younger girls on the team and I know Caitlynn and Aubrey did as well.”

Current members of the Saints’ girls’ basketball team appreciate the impact Arnold, Daniels and Jones left behind.

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“I looked up to those seniors because they made us feel welcomed and they are all talented and wanted the best for the team,” junior Aree Beckmann said. “They continually worked together and helped each other on and off the court.”

Arnold, Daniels and Jones have similar advice for all Xavier girls’ basketball players: never take anything for granted,

work hard and make memories with teammates that will last forever.

Xavier plays at Dubuque Hempstead tonight.

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We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.