Women’s Basketball Player Darnell Honored

For someone who didn’t think she was going to attend Virginia Peninsula Community College, Da’Naiyah Darnell sure made an impact in her two years at the institution.

She was recognized as VPCC’s athlete of the year at the annual Peninsula Sports Club’s Headliner’s Night on June 24. The featured attraction was Tyrod Taylor, a product of Hampton High School and Virginia Tech who is a quarterback for the New York Jets.

Darnell, who is from Newport News but graduated from Bruton High School in 2022, almost didn’t attend VPCC. However, Gators athletics director Chris Moore and assistant women’s basketball coach William Morris were persistent in pursuing Darnell. They persuaded her to attend an interest meeting.

“I just liked it, so I stayed,” said Darnell, who has seven siblings and is the second oldest.

She will earn her associate degree this summer before attending a four-year school. Hoping to become a physical therapist or an athletic trainer, she's considering Bluefield University or The University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy in St. Louis. Either way, her basketball career is not over as both schools' teams are interested in her.

Her time at VPCC wasn’t without challenges, as she played for two coaches in two years and the College almost didn’t field a team her first year. She appreciated efforts by Moore, Morris and others that made a season possible.

“They figured stuff out and made it so we can play,” she said.

Morris said that showed Darnell’s commitment to the sport and College.

“She’s been hardworking. Even when it seemed like we weren’t going to have a team, she still stuck around,” Morris said. “If I couldn’t count on anybody else to be in the gym at practice, she’s one of those people (who) always showed up. She developed into a real leader. Some of the young ladies took her lead. She leads vocally and on the court.”

Her toughness also stood out, Morris said.

“We could be down by 20, and if nobody else is out there playing hard, Da’Naiyah is going to play hard,” he said.

Her stats back that up. She had 11 points and 10 rebounds in a 72-49 loss to Apprentice, 15 points and six rebounds in a 70-34 win over Central Carolina Community College, 14 points in a 74-73 win over Patrick & Henry, and 28 points in a 108-35 win over CNU’s club team.

Darnell, a guard, has been playing basketball since the eighth grade and was first-team all-region her senior year at Bruton. She also played soccer her senior year of high school. As a child, she played soccer and participated in cheerleading.

She was active in community outreach events the VPCC basketball team was involved with and assisted at a tech camp at the Hampton campus last week. She enjoyed her time at the College so much, she said she would like to stay, but knows it’s time for that next step. She would recommend the College.

“All the teachers are pretty understanding,” she said. “I feel like it’s a good school.”

The College is proud to be included in this annual community recognition of its student-athletes. Athlete of the Year honors went to men’s basketball player Mekhi Reid in 2023, and baseball player Michael Adams in 2022.