BY ROCKY STANLEY
THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
RUSSELL The daughter of a cardiologist, Madison Darnell has her sights fixed on the medical field.
“I’m hoping, that’s my goal,” she said this week.
The Russell junior’s current class load includes the likes of AP physics and chemistry. As for the science of basketball, she’s got that covered quite nicely, too.
A multi-dimensional player, Darnell could be described as the heartbeat for the defending 16th Region champs this season. Especially since senior Maggie Jachimczuk missed several games with a sprained ankle and forward Alexis Maynard was also sidelined by injury. “Madison really responded well,” Russell coach Mandy Layne said. “She stepped up huge in games, not only on the offensive end but guarding the other team’s best player.”
Coaches at different levels have been known to exaggerate about a player’s ability to legitimately play all five positions on the floor. In Darnell’s case, it’s reality rather than hype. She often brings the ball up the floor for the Lady Devils, and functions just as well at shooting guard or either forward. Athletic and 5-foot-11 — thanks to a 7inch growth spurt between her freshman and sophomore seasons — Darnell filled the post void more than admirably until Jachimczuk returned to full duty this week.
Russell’s Madison Darnell scores on a runner against Ashland this season in Marvin Meredith Gymnasium.
DON MCREYNOLDS | FOR THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
“Madison might not only be one of the best guards in the region, but one of the best post players,” Layne said.
Heading into the Lady Devils’ game Wednesday night at Paintsville, Darnell averaged 17.2 points, 6 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 2-plus steals per game.
From her coach’s vantage point, those numbers are only part of what makes Darnell special.
“She’s just such an awesome kid,” Layne said. “She’s great on and off the court. Madison’s very selfless. She has such high expectations for herself that you don’t want to push her that much.”
Darnell carries a 4.2 grade point average, crediting her parents — Zane and Jennifer — for their oversight and encouragement. Zane played high school basketball at Green in Franklin Furnace, Ohio.
“I haven’t seen videos, but I’ve heard he was a leader,” Madison said. “He’s always there to help and support me.”
Darnell’s versatility makes her a fluid offensive weapon.
“Madison can score so many ways,” said Layne, who can appreciate that having been a prolific point-producer herself at Ashland and West Carter. “She can shoot it, drive it, post up and makes over 70 percent at the foul line. She moves pretty well without the ball, too.”
Darnell recently surpassed 1,500 points and is on track to reach the lofty 2,000 mark. Regina Carroll holds the school record with 2,494.
“There are so many Russell girls I looked up to growing up,” said Darnell, who chose to wear No. 10 out of admiration for former Lady Devil Gabrielle Cassity.
Darnell likes to think more in terms of setting team goals than individual ones.
“This group, we’ve been together so long it’s more like a family,” she said. “That makes it a lot easier going out there for every practice and every game.”
After last year’s run to the state tournament, the Lady Devils — 16-8 entering Wednesday — have grown accustomed to getting everybody’s best shot.
“Every team we play, they want to beat Russell,” Darnell said. “Some teams you want to beat more than others. We are up there now. it’s more fun.”
Darnell loves everything about basketball.
“You are always active, always doing something,” she said. “You can play different positions. You can just pick up some friends and go play for fun.”
Of course, she also enjoys the serious side.
“I like that’s it’s competitive because I’ve always been a competitive person,” Darnell said.
Her breakout game with the Lady Devils came early. As the sixth man during her eighth-grade season, Darnell scored 18 points as Russell knocked off Boyd County in the opening game of the regional tournament.
“She likes the big stage,” Layne said. “Some of her best games last year were at the regional tournament.”
Russell’s coach said she has watched Darnell’s confidence grow this season.
“After we played at Mason County, their coach (Brad Cox) talked on the radio about Madison being one of the best guards in the state,” Layne said. “I think that’s an ultimate compliment.”
Darnell is also a quality center fielder. She played varsity for Russell as a freshman and sophomore before taking last season off to concentrate on AAU basketball with Kentucky Premier.
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