After rewriting the record books during her accomplished playing career from 2014-2018, Dani Franklin joined the Valparaiso University women’s basketball coaching staff as an assistant coach under head coach Mary Evans heading into the 2019-2020 season.
In her first season on staff at Valpo, Franklin helped guide one of the nation's most impressive year-over-year turnarounds. The 2019-20 Valpo squad jumped 171 spots in the RPI to 133 - the largest leap by any Division I program in the nation.
The 2019-20 Crusaders finished with a 17-12 overall record, 10.5 games better than the previous year - tied for the sixth-best increase nationally. The 17 wins marked the largest win total for the program since the 2006-07 campaign, and included a pair of top-100 RPI wins, the first-such wins for Valpo since March 2013.
The former Valpo standout returned 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).
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.
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.