- Mechelle Voepel, espnW.com
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Editor's note: Charlie Creme, Graham Hays, Michelle Smith and Mechelle Voepel each vote to determine espnW's national player of the week, which is awarded every Monday of the women's college basketball season.
Danielle Mauldin has been in the Bay Area all her life. She was born in Vallejo, Calif., went to Saint Mary's College High School in Berkeley, and is now a senior at Saint Mary's College in Moraga.
And there's no question Mauldin and her teammates -- including her younger sister, Shannon -- are pinpoint-focused on one thing this season: Making the Gaels' first NCAA tournament appearance since 2001.
Mauldin, espnW's national player of the week, helped Saint Mary's get an important victory toward that goal Saturday, when they Gaels beat No. 24 Gonzaga 79-78 in overtime.
Mauldin had 24 points and a career-high 23 rebounds for Saint Mary's in its West Coast Conference opener. The senior forward went 5-of-14 from the field, but made the Bulldogs pay for fouling her by going 14-of-17 from the line. Ten of her rebounds came at the offensive end for the Gaels (11-1).
Saint Mary's coach Paul Thomas has referred to the 6-foot Mauldin as, "Probably the best undersized post player I've coached in my 30 years." Mauldin now has 1,029 rebounds in her career, along with 1,139 points. A reserve her freshman season, she has been a starter ever since. She is averaging 19.0 points and 14.5 rebounds this season.
Mauldin is one of three seniors for the Gaels, along with Jackie Nared and Kate Gaze, whose journeys to Saint Mary's were quite different from Mauldin's. Gaze is part of the Gaels' "Australian pipeline," as she's from Melbourne. Nared, who is from Portland, Ore., began her career across the country at Maryland, but then transferred to Saint Mary's. Nared, who had 27 points and 11 rebounds against Gonzaga, was also nominated for espnW player of the week.
Mauldin had offers from as far away as Brown in Rhode Island, but she wanted to stay close to home in part so her parents could frequently see her play. Now, they can watch her and Shannon, a sophomore guard who came off the bench for nine points against Gonzaga.
Also nominated: Jackie Nared, Saint Mary's; Alyssa Thomas, Maryland.