DAYTON, Ohio — You would never know that Danielle Robinson has sickle cell trait.
Sherri Coale figures some of Robinson's younger teammates probably don't know. Heck, Robinson herself didn't know until she came to the University of Oklahoma, and trainer Scott Anderson detected it during routine blood work.
Good thing the blood disorder was discovered. Now the Sooner staff can monitor Robinson during "extreme situations," Coale said.
What other kind of situation is there for Dani California?
The senior point guard plays basketball like her hair's on fire.
Plays every possession like there's five seconds left in the game. Urgently. Furiously. Dribble, shoot, defend, celebrate, take a seat on the bench with one of those maddening fouls. Doesn't matter.
Robinson is in a hurry.
“I love playing with her,” said OU teammate Whitney Hand. “The emotion you feel when you watch her is what we feel on the court with her. I don't know what I'm going to do when she's gone.”
Hand? What about Coale? Robinson has run the OU offense for four years; her next loss is her last Sooner game, which could come as early as today against Notre Dame in the Dayton Regional semifinals.
“I don't even remember what it's like to run things without her on our basketball team,” Coale said.
Coale has produced her share of unforgettable players. Phylesha Whaley. Stacey Dales. Courtney Paris.
But it's not clear that anyone has been more valuable to Coale's remarkable program than the joyous point guard from San Jose, who has quarterbacked back-to-back Final Four trips and has the Sooners two wins from a third straight.
Robinson walks campus with her ears unplugged and her head up, smiling at all who come her way.
“She loses her mind at volleyball games, goes crazy at football games, shows up at softball,” Coale said.
Coale tells Robinson she can't sneak up on anyone; her laugh can be heard from three hallways down.
Dani California can't sneak up on anyone on the court, either. She was third-team All-American last season and might be first-team this season.
Quite a career for a player who as a college rookie was told she had the sickle cell trait.
Sickle cell trait is not a disease and will not turn into sickle cell anemia. But it is a lifelong condition that will not change over time.
During intense exercise, sickled red cells can accumulate and block normal blood flow. Athletes with sickle cell trait have experienced significant physical distress, collapsed and even died.
Thus the needed monitoring of Robinson during times of exertion.
Except when is Robinson not exerting?
“I was nervous at first,” Robinson admitted.
But Robinson has stayed healthy with gradual preseason training, sitting out occasional sprints and avoiding all-out exertion longer than 2-3 minutes without a breather.
Who knew Dani California ever took it easy?
“The adrenaline comes into effect in the games,” Robinson said. “It's more preseason that they are more worried about monitoring how much I ran and for how long, things like that.”
Now she nears the conclusion of her Sooner career, either here in Dayton or next week in Indianapolis, 100 miles west down I-70.
Robinson doesn't want to see it end. For once, she's not in a hurry.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.