Western New York girls basketball’s all-time scoring list has a permanent Smudge on it.
That’s the family nickname for Franklinville junior Dani Haskell, the 5-foot-7 sharpshooter who rose to 17th on the career list with 1,884 points after scoring 35 in the Panthers’ season-opening loss at Sacred Heart.
“When she was born, her grandpa thought she had a big head,” Dani’s father, Jeff Haskell, recalled. “He said she looked like a smudge. And that stuck with some of us.”
While coaches and teammates call her Dani, Haskell is fond of the Smudge moniker.
“From my dad and people who know me through my dad, I really like it,” she said “It’s weird if he doesn’t call me Smudge.”
It also reminds her of her late grandfather Rick Hughes, a passionate supporter of Franklinville basketball. His daughters Laura, Debbie and Dani’s mother Jill were all standout players, along with grandchildren Sam Kopp and Ally Haskell.
“He was the patriarch of our family and they have quite a bloodline,” said Jeff Haskell, the Franklinville boys basketball coach.
The lineage includes three of WNY’s top 15 career scorers. Kopp, who continued her career at Long Island University-Post, was the all-time leader when she graduated in 2009 with 2,420 points and currently ranks third. No. 8 Laura Hughes held the record from 1983-2001, having scored 2,196 points before going on to play at Penn State. Ally Haskell, Dani’s older sister, finished last season at 14th with 1,938 points. Debbie Hughes (1985) ranks 75th with 1,446 points.
This weekend, Franklinville hosts its third annual Rick Hughes Memorial Tournament. The girls, defending Section VI Class D champions, will meet last year’s B-2 winners Southwestern on Friday night with the winner facing Grand Island or St. Mary's in Saturday’s 2 p.m. final. In the boys tournament, Randolph and Iroquois play in Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. championship game.
“Mr. Hughes was such a huge part of our town,” Franklinville girls coach Allan Dunlap said. “He wasn’t just a huge fan of his grandkids, but he was a huge fan of Franklinville athletics. There’s not a not person in our town who didn’t know him and didn’t love him.”
The Panthers will use the occasion to honor Ally Haskell, now a freshman pitcher on the St. Bonaventure softball team, for her basketball career.
“It will be pretty emotional,” Dani Haskell said. “He was a major part of our games. Softball, cross country, basketball, he would attend every single thing. Having it be his tournament makes it more special for me.”
Though her skill set differs from the mostly taller players in her family, Smudge has been a sponge for their court knowledge.
“All of them come to every game,” she said. “Being able to talk to them afterward about what they used to do helps me to be like them and keep pursuing what they did.”
Mckenna Maycock, the St. Bonaventure senior who scored a WNY record 2,947 points at Randolph, has also influenced Haskell.
“She used to come to the gym and work out with me and my dad,” Haskell said. “She went to a really small school like I do, and she would score like 50 points a game no matter who they played. So I try to be like that.”
With good health, Haskell has a chance to surpass Maycock’s scoring mark and become WNY’s first 3,000-point scorer.
Haskell led area players with 627 points as a sophomore, averaging 26.1 per game as the Panthers went 25-1 and reached the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class D title game. She was a first-team All-Western New York selection and the state player of the year in Class D.
Evading double-teams with her hesitation dribble and willing to shoot as soon as she crosses half-court, Haskell has a Stephen Curry-like impact on games. She led WNY with 88 3-pointers last season, and her coach has no no qualms with Haskell’s tendency to shoot from several feet beyond the 3-point line.
“She has a green light at any moment, any time,” he said. “I tell her, if you get some breathing room, pull it. That’s how much faith I have in her. I’ve seen us be down 20 points and Dani hits seven 3s in a row and we end up winning.”
Against Sacred Heart, Haskell made four deep 3s, including a buzzer-beater from about 50 feet to cap a 17-point fourth quarter.
“Everyone oohed and aahed, but that’s just what Dani does,” Dunlap said. “She practices those and she’ll hit 8 of 10.”
Haskell has been relentless in honing both the fundamental and flashy elements of her game from a young age, her father said.
“When she was 6 playing YMCA ball and another girl went behind her back, Smudge spent the next five hours in the driveway trying to figure out how to go behind her back,” Jeff Haskell said. “That’s when I knew she had a passion for it.”