Braylee Stone, a 5’11” sophomore point guard at McKay High School in Salem, moved away from the Blackfeet Reservation in Browning, Montana to live with her uncle in Salem before her freshman year of high school to pursue her dream of playing college basketball.
It would have been very difficult for her to make this dream a reality while living in the reservation. She finished her sophomore season at McKay being selected as 2nd Team All-League and averaging 8 points, 2.5 assists, and 5.5 rebounds. With two years left in high school, Braylee plans to get stronger physically and mentally. She has the desire to work hard for a chance at a college athletic and academic scholarship—currently maintaining a 3.8 GPA.
“Braylee is a natural team leader. She is an incredible hard worker that wants to improve to her maximum ability. She’s always coming to the gym before and after practice to work on shooting and individual drills. I feel that she’s a great basketball player, but a better person. She has a wonderful personality with great values—she will go a long way in life,” said McKay Head Coach Derrick Handley.
Braylee is following the footsteps of Danielle Padilla, who also played basketball at McKay and now plays basketball at Cal State Monterey Bay in Seaside, California—an NCAA DIV II university.
Danielle earned an athletic scholarship to play basketball at Chemeketa Community College after high school. Her sophomore year at Chemeketa she averaged 16.5 points, 3 assists, and 1.5 steals. After, she signed a letter of intent to play at Cal State Monterey Bay.
“Danielle is a lights-out shooter who has great court vision and makes people around her better. The best thing about (Danielle) as a basketball player is that she has so much potential to get better on the offensive end and defensive end. We are looking for DP to possibly be the best shooter to ever play at CSUMB,” said Renee Jimenez, Women’s 2011 Coach of the Year.
This past season she was a reserve player at CSUMB contributing significant minutes to the team. This summer she’ll work harder to prepare for her senior year—her goal is to become a starter for CSUMB and help them win their third consecutive conference championship.
What inspired you to start playing basketball?
Danielle: My dad played basketball in high school—he really enjoyed playing. When I was a little girl, he and my brother Michael shot baskets on a street basketball hoop in front of our house. I started shooting baskets with them … I mean—we shot baskets until it was dark outside. They both encouraged me to keep playing. I enjoyed it so much that I began playing every day.
Braylee: My mom played basketball—she was really good. Back at Blackfeet Reservation I used to watch her and some of the older girls during church league games—that caught my eye. I started playing with my twin brother, Brady, and discovered that I really liked the game. Mom got me involved in middle school basketball. I was always the tallest girl on any of my teams but not too coordinated at a young age. Mom taught me how to shoot with correct form and also some of her moves.
Growing up as a Latina female athlete (Danielle) and a Native American (Braylee) what challenges have you faced?
Danielle:The perception of a Hispanic female not being able to compete with talented African Americans, or talented Caucasians, made me work even harder. Attending a High School like McKay, I was always around a huge diverse crowd. I never felt discriminated against—all the students were cool there.
Braylee: I guess the background history of being a Native American. The perception of being alcoholics and not much of a life at the reservation is what some people see. People might have that impression of me, but I’m not like that, I want to go to college and make something of myself. I want to be a great college basketball player that people look up to.
What kind of things have you done to improve your skills on the court?
Danielle:In high school I was a three-sport athlete. I dropped volleyball to better focus on basketball and softball. I spent a lot of time in the gym practicing my shot. I lifted weights to get stronger physically—I wasn’t very big when I was younger. I played softball and basketball at Chemeketa Community College, but I knew that basketball was going to be my sport at a major university. So I dropped softball and stuck to the game I love. I’ve been working hard on my basketball skills ever since.
Braylee: I’ve worked with Mike Meister, a Willamette University coach. He’s helped me with shooting drills, dribbling drills, and footwork. I like putting extra time in the gym whenever I’m able to. I’ve gotten involved in weight training to get stronger and basketball camps in the summers.
What were some of the differences you experienced playing at a community college level vs. playing at the university level?
Danielle: The competitiveness was outrageously a step up from community college ball. All of the girls here at Cal State Monterey Bay were all-stars from their previous schools. At Chemeketa we had 1-2 hour practices five days a week. At CSUMB we have 3-hour practices six days a week. My playing time at the community college level was much higher than here at the university—I have to earn every minute I get.
What did it feel like when you first stepped onto Cal State Monterey Bay’s basketball court with all of your teammates?
Danielle: It was overwhelming, I’d never felt such a great feeling in my life. Basketball is my passion and to have a moment like that was a wonderful experience. We started shooting around—I felt like I was right where I’ve always dreamed. It’s really hard to explain a great feeling like that.
What obstacles have you encountered and overcome?
Danielle: Keeping up with school work has always been very difficult for me—grades don’t come easy for me. I’ve managed to get tutoring, and somehow found my way to study hall—that’s helped a lot. I have a heart condition that the doctors monitor. My heart seems to fill up with more blood than it should at times. The doctor said it was okay for me to play—it has gotten better. I’ve also sprained my ankle, but nothing too serious.
Braylee: Being away from my mom has been the biggest obstacle for me. We are very close. We keep in touch regularly. She wants to give me every opportunity possible to get an athletic scholarship and make it to college for an education. Last year I left with a concussion while playing during a pre-season game against Grants Pass. I had to sit out for a week—not a fun thing to go through.
How have your parents been supportive?
Danielle: My parents have always wanted the best for me. They would take me to basketball camps, tournaments—they’d even watch NBA games on TV with me. My dad would come home from work and shoot baskets with me until it was dark. He encouraged me to keep working hard. He said basketball could pay for my college education some day.
Braylee: My mom has been so supportive in everything. She told me that hard work will pay my way to college someday. She helped me with my shooting form and all kinds of basketball terminology. She would give me rides to games and nurture me in every aspect of life. She means so much to me.
What has been the toughest task that you’ve achieved?
Danielle: At Chemeketa I was always a starter. Here at Cal State Monterey Bay I found myself sitting the bench at the beginning of the games—a reserve player. When you have all-star caliber teammates you have to step up to the challenge—I did that and started getting minutes and scoring points.
Braylee: I developed the ability to mentally deal with not being around Mom. Leaving home to come to Salem was really tough for me. But I have adjusted well—I want to make my mom very proud. In reaching my dream she will reach hers.
What has been your most memorable highlight in your basketball career?
Danielle; When I was playing for Chemeketa I scored 35 points in one game. I was in a zone—could not miss a shot. My teammates were getting me the ball. Another moment was at Cal State Monterey Bay. Coach put me in during our conference championship game and said, “Shoot the ball.” I scored two three-pointers right away and put us up by 13 points.
Braylee: At the end of the sophomore regular season, I was surprised when I heard the announcement that I had made the Central Valley Conference All-League 2nd Team. That definitely put a smile on my face.
Tell us about how you will contribute to your team next year.
Danielle: I plan to stay here this summer and work hard on my skills. We have a winning team and I want to help continue that tradition. I feel that my three-point shooting and my defense will contribute to our team. My goal is to work hard this summer and hopefully earn a starting spot on the team.
Braylee: I plan to play the point-guard position and do my best to become the leader on and off the court for my team. I’m hoping to give my team a lift with scoring and defense as well.
What advice can you give young female athletes that want to reach a dream like yours?
Danielle: Hard work really does pay off—never give up on your dream. Don’t hang out with the people that party. Hang out with your teammates and watch NBA games and do fun things with them. Keep up your grades. You can’t play basketball if your grades aren’t up to standards.
What is your goal in life – what do you want to become?
Danielle: I want to be a Police Officer—homicide detective. I would also like to have a family some day.
Braylee: I would love to play basketball for one of these colleges … Washington St., UCLA, or Arizona. I have to set my goals high. When I’m done with college I would love to be an eye doctor. And then of course have a family some day.