The path to where you want to be is a rocky one sometimes. That’s something that Daeja Quick can tell you.
If you look at her now, she seems to have everything she wants. She’s back out on the court playing the style of basketball she’s wanted to her entire career, and early in the SRU women’s basketball season that’s already led to five wins. To put that into perspective, the team had just eight wins two years ago.
Coach Robert McGraw is a big reason for her return. McGraw stated in the preview article that she stuck with him, and now he’s going to stick with her. That loyalty is the reason Quick came back.
“I have loyalty to Coach McGraw, in all four years I’ve been here he’s taken care me on and off the court and I didn’t want to just leave him high and dry,” Quick said. “Plus, I wanted another year to prove to myself that I can play better than in previous seasons.”
Her playing journey didn’t begin here at Slippery Rock, however.
She started playing the game at a young age. Her dad pushed her more and more each year to be better, and without that she might not have ever gotten to where she is now.
“I started playing basketball in fifth grade, and my dad was really hard on me, but he just wanted to see me succeed,” Quick said. “He saw the raw talent, and he wanted to push me past my potential.”
In high school, Quick showed that potential on the court. She led Cornell High School to a 1A championship game and the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) playoffs. That wasn’t enough for her, though.
She received interest from multiple schools, but the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) was her best offer. Unfortunately, she found she didn’t have the playing best experience there. For some, that experience would break them down a little, but for Quick, it was a challenge.
“My freshman year in UDC my coach would tell me you’re a good offensive player, but you don’t bring any defense to the table,” Quick said. “That stuck with me a lot.”
Quick took that quote from her coach and ran with it. It stayed in her mind every time she picked up the ball afterwards. Now she had something to prove, and that suited her.
Flash to the 2021 season. Quick was able to come through on the challenge she set for herself. She earned Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) west defensive athlete of the week honors. What that coach said stuck in her mind, but the feeling of proving to herself that she can play well on both ends is something that words can’t really describe. Quick is humble about it though.
“It was a learning experience, like I said, I’ve improved since freshman year and now I am who I am,” Quick said.
At UDC, she was named East Coast Conference Rookie of the year. When her freshman year concluded, she knew that wasn’t the place for her though. Right around that time, McGraw made it clear he was interested in her.
“Honestly, Coach McGraw was the first coach to ever be interested in me. I verbally committed to him, then something finically happened, but we stayed in good contact, and he came to all my Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) games even if they were in Kentucky,” Quick said. “He wanted me, and it was out of our control what happened freshman year, but I reached back out to see if he was still interested.”
It didn’t take long for her to officially get on board. She made her impact for The Rock immediately, but it wasn’t through scoring like she was used to. Quick is a fitting last name for Daeja, because not only is she fast, but she’s also quick to recognize who has the best chance to score on any given possession.
Her ability to pass the ball made her a true point guard. In 2018, she led The Rock in assists and it’s something that means a lot to her. While Quick wanted to be more involved in scoring, she wanted to do what was best for the team overall.
“[It made me put in] work at all hours of the day, you can’t just be a practice player and expect to be good,” Quick said. “I just learned to be patient and keep working.”
That patience was key because the next season was much of the same for her. The team returned Brooke Hinderliter, who in the end fell just short of The Rock’s all-time scoring record. Hinderliter and Quick remain friends still. Quick did all she could to help her get the record, but deep down she knew she wanted a chance to show what she could do.
“We had Ciara Patterson and Brooke Hinderliter on the team, in high school and my freshman year of college I was the biggest asset offensively, but I came here and there was already talent here,” Quick said. “It was my job to facilitate the ball to them so we could have points on the board, but I waited my turn and I’m a pretty big asset offensively.”
Quick had always been able to score efficiently, but after two years of dishing the ball out rather than taking it, she added to her skills. After only two years here, she sits at 21st in the SRU assist category. The goal is to be number one.
“Personally, I’d love to be a two-guard, but everyone recruited me as a point guard, so I had to be that pass first point guard, and I don’t mind that,” Quick said. “I just want to win, if you’re going to help us win then I’m giving the ball to you.”
Winning in her first two years has come at premium. With The Rock, Quick has won just 20 games out of 56. But now with the keys to the offense, Quick feels that she once again has a challenge.
“I do feel like I have something to prove offensively, because I wasn’t able to play the way I wanted to when Brooke and Ciara were here and I played my part for the team,” Quick said. “I sacrificed my wants and my needs for the team, but now this is my team and Coach McGraw has given me a lot of leeway and it’s working so far.”
The decision to come back was an easy one for Quick, and that’s mostly because of Coach McGraw being there to help guide her.
“We had a conversation, and he didn’t come on the phone and tell me I needed to play, he asked if I was ready to graduate and go into adult life or if there was a chance I’d like to come back and play with him,” Quick said. “I shut down all those other options and told him the only option was to come back and play for you.”
Now she’s back with that chip on shoulder, which has led to good things already. Quick has been proving exactly what she’s about as a player. This time she’s a leader.
“We encourage everyone in practice, that if you want to see the floor you have to go hard,” Quick said. “If you already think you’re going hard, then you need to go ten times harder.”
It’s a message the whole team has responded too. Two years ago, the team had a veteran core. This season the team has a new roster. Just like most teams, they have two classes of new players on the team. The games against Ohio State University and Kent State University just showed Daeja how good this team can be.
Through six games this season, The Rock has already shown that they can compete, and they already have their first conference win of the season. In 2019, it took the team five tries to do that.
The entire team sticks behind McGraw’s goal, and they believe they can accomplish it, but no one more than Quick. It’s another challenge, and Quick loves a good challenge.
“I want to look back and say we were PSAC champions, we went to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament, and we just had a great season,” Quick said. “I want to have those pictures and memories of us celebrating, and I feel like we’re on the road to do that.”