One of the best players to ever wear a Valpo uniform is coming home.
After rewriting the record books during her accomplished playing career from 2014-2018, Dani Franklin has joined the Valparaiso University women’s basketball coaching staff as an assistant coach under head coach Mary Evans.
“This means the world to me,” Franklin said. “I am so thankful that Coach Evans trusts me to come back and coach at Valpo. I’m excited because Valpo holds a very special place in my heart and it will forever. I learned so much there and grew as a person. I can’t wait to help our student-athletes grow and learn about the game of basketball and about life.”
The former Valpo standout returns to her alma mater after spending the 2018-19 season as a graduate assistant at Mercer University under veteran head coach Susie Gardner. There she contributed to a successful season that saw the Bears finish 25-8 overall and a perfect 14-0 in conference play on their way to winning the Southern Conference Tournament and receiving an automatic NCAA Tournament berth. Mercer nearly knocked off Iowa in a first-round matchup before falling to the second-seeded Hawkeyes 66-61. In her role at Mercer, Franklin handled graphics, worked with film, oversaw student managers and assisted with scouting and game preparation.
Franklin finished in the Top 10 in program history in 12 statistical categories, including second in points with 1,721 and fifth in rebounds with 713. She shattered the program record for free-throw percentage by knocking down 260 of her 299 attempts for 87 percent. The other categories where she ranks among Valpo’s all-time leaders include games played (121, third), field goals made (639, second), field goal attempts (1,489, second), points per game (14.2, second), free throws made (260, sixth), 3-point field goals made (183, fourth), 3-point field goals attempted (503, fourth), rebounds per game (5.9, t-eighth) and 3-point field goal percentage (36.4, sixth).
“Hiring Dani Franklin to join our coaching staff was a no-brainer,” Evans said. “Her passion and love for Valpo and for our program is greater than anyone else’s I could have hired. She is very driven and focused on what she wants out of her career and life. She’ll do everything she can to learn and grow as a coach. She knows all about the Missouri Valley Conference and the level of players we need to be successful. She’s very hungry to win at Valpo and that will come across well during the recruiting process.”
The Valpo legend was a champion in classroom, competition and community throughout her four-year tenure, exemplified by her status as an All-Missouri Valley Conference First Team selection, an MVC Scholar-Athlete First Team honoree and a State Farm MVC Good Neighbor Award recipient. When Franklin earned all-conference first-team recognition following her senior season, she became the first Valpo player to do so since 2009.
Franklin is the only player in program history to eclipse both 1,500 points and 700 rebounds. She is also the only Valpo women’s basketball player in the Top 5 in both career scoring and career rebounding. In addition to the three aforementioned honors that she received following her senior season, Franklin was an All-Horizon League Second-Team selection as a junior and was both the Horizon League Freshman of the Year and Sixth Player of the Year following her rookie campaign.
The impact Dani Franklin made on the Valparaiso University women’s basketball program went beyond her many on-court accomplishments. She struck the rare balance of being an in-season student-athlete and a student teacher during her final semester on campus, serving as a role model to her second-grade students at Heavilin Elementary School in Valpo while continuing to dominate on the court. At Valpo’s year-end awards banquet in 2018, Franklin was named the athletic department’s Female Athlete of the Year while also earning the Rebecca D. Carter Memorial Award, which is given annually to the female student-athlete who has best exemplified integrity and sportsmanship while representing Valparaiso University.
“Everything I heard about Dani before meeting her indicated that she is a mature, driven individual,” Evans said. “All of that feedback was confirmed when she stepped foot on campus for her interview. The more people I talk to about her, the more I realize that her success on the court didn’t come overnight. There was a lot of sweat equity that went into her being as good as she was. For her to be able to have those conversions with our young players and be their role model is very important.”
Franklin ranked second in the Missouri Valley Conference in scoring as a senior at 15.6 points per game, while finishing fourth in rebounding at 6.8 boards per contest. She was the only player in the MVC to finish the 2017-18 season in the Top 5 in both categories. The Cedar Rapids, Iowa native and George Washington High School graduate is one of three players in program history who scored 33 points or more on multiple occasions in her career, including a career-high 34 in the first game of her junior season at Stetson.
“I cannot wait to learn from Coach Evans,” Franklin said. “She is very positive, passionate and enthusiastic about the game of basketball. I’ve stayed in contact with many of the players throughout the season and they love playing for her. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to work under her and learn more about her tactics and her approach to running the team.”