The Grande Prairie Wolves needed a new backcourt leader. They found one in Danielle Steel.
Steel, a local guard, had her talents on display during a women's basketball identification camp at Grande Prairie Regional College on the weekend. At the end of the camp, Wolves head coach Dave Waknuk wasted no time in offering her a spot on the 2012-13 team.
Steel, who was a rookie member of the UNBC Northern Timberwolves this season, has already been penciled in as Grande Prairie's starter at the point position. She'll take over from the graduated Lenka Rohova, the Wolves' MVP from 2011-12 and a player who led the entire country in assists in 2010-11.
"We look [for Steel] to be in that starting spot our first game," Waknuk said.
"I had Danielle very high on our list. With her practicing with a great [UNBC] basketball team all season, with great coaching, she's not coming in as a rookie. She's coming in with experience so I think that gives her a great advantage."
Waknuk was interested in Steel even while she was still a high school player with the D.P. Todd Trojans. After watching her in person on the weekend, he was more impressed than ever before.
"Danielle's composure and skill level is definitely there," he said. "She's a great athlete but she's also a smart basketball player. She brings different aspects to the point guard position because I believe she can score and she can still make plays and run an offence and run a team. And the biggest thing is her attitude -- she's got a great attitude, she's extremely coachable and she's going to provide us some leadership."
Steel didn't see a lot of game action with the Timberwolves during her freshman campaign but was determined to make a big impression at the Grande Prairie ID camp.
"I went in really confident and I played confident," she said. "That was kind of my biggest worry at first but I pulled through.
"It was really nice to get some playing time in and just to see what it's like playing in Alberta," she added. "There were a couple of girls that were really athletic so it was nice to compete against them."
For Steel, the reason for the move to Grande Prairie is academic in nature. She wants to earn a degree in physical education and that program isn't offered at UNBC. Here in Prince George, she's studying general arts and had originally planned to use that as a springboard into health sciences.
"It's difficult to leave UNBC but it's time to follow what I want to do for school," she said. "The phys-ed program is what I really wanted to pursue."
At GPRC, Steel will take a university transfer program in physical education. She plans to move on to the University of Alberta after two or three years in Grande Prairie.
As for basketball, Steel will almost certainly get more playing time with Grande Prairie next season than she would have with UNBC, which is jumping from the PACWEST Athletic Association to the Canada West conference of Canadian Interuniversity Sport. She relishes the chance to be in the Wolves' starting lineup and will put in the required amount of work in the off-season to secure her job.
"I know I'll have to train hard or else someone else will take that spot," she said.
The Wolves compete in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference, traditionally one of the strongest college leagues in the country. One of their division rivals is Grant MacEwan University, which was ranked No. 1 in Canada this season and placed fourth at the recent national championship tournament in Lethbridge.