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Friday, Jun 14, 2024

Auburn High Women’s Basketball Season shaped through honoring a legacy

Auburn High Women’s Basketball Trip to the Final Four offered an opportunity to honor a teammates late mother.

The Lady Tigers took center stage in the biggest game of the season. A win at Legacy Arena would send them to the 7A State Championship. As the Women took the court, their black-on-black uniforms caught several glances. Their jerseys were now newly etched with the number 33. To most, the minute detail posed little significance. To those donning the black and blue, it represented all the season had been dedicated to. It signified a legacy meant to be honored.

Syriah and Atwane Daniels were destined to play basketball. Their Mom, who grew up in Macon Georgia, joined the Auburn Community in 1997. Shana Askew Daniels, a Women's Basketball player at Auburn University, left her mark playing in 95 games and starting in 65. Shana scored 793 Career points and additionally earned All-SEC honors. While attending Auburn, Shana met her husband, Marquis Daniels, a men's basketball player. Marquis shared much of the same success at Auburn, scoring 1532 career points, the 11th highest in school history. He started 111 games and earned numerous SEC honors. Marquis continued playing professionally in the NBA for ten years as a member of the Mavericks, Pacers, Celtics, and Bucks. With an impressive rookie start, Marquis was named NBA All-Rookie Second Team. He went on to have successful tenures with all four NBA Organizations before leaving the court and returning home to Auburn, where he continues to Coach at Auburn University.

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Shana dribbles at a Auburn basketball game. Photo credit Auburn Athletics

Shana and Marquis Raised two children. Syriah and Antwane both came to be Auburn High Basketball stand-outs. The Daniels family met many obstacles as their children grew older. In 2019, Marquis was in a significant car accident that left him in a wheelchair for months. While Marquis was in the hospital, Shana became concerned about her health. Upon asking a nurse for a second opinion, it was suggested she screen for breast cancer. Following her Husbands release from the hospital, A Biopsy revealed their family's worst fear. Ductal Sarcoma. Both Marquis and Shana had to care for each other through their struggles. While Marquis began to muster more strength, the goal became to get Shana through surgery and treatment. On February 3rd, 2021, Shana rang the bell, victoriously beating breast cancer. Her Fighting spirit was evident in the attitude she chose through her battle. Following her remission, she bravely said, "When you're faced with adversity, you can't let it get the best of you. You can't just lay down and quit. I knew I had a family to fight for, and I'm here trying to live for every day because they need me just as much as I need them. There was no way I was going to quit".

Shana's Victory was a true testament to her fighting spirit. Many recount that she never shied away when it came to adversity. During the 2022-2023 season, Syriah strengthened as a dominant player and leader on the court. During a Regular season matchup versus Lochapoka, she reached 1000 career points, signifying her growth as an athlete. She was met on the court by her parents, who proudly embraced their daughter. Later in the year, in front of her teammates and family, Syriah committed to Auburn University. She spoke appreciatively of her teammates and coaches. Marquis, Shana, and Antwane thanked everyone involved in Syriah's life for supporting her through the family's hardships. In a monumental full circle moment, evident in Syriah's upbeat attitude, there was an overwhelming feeling of joy. Joy for the rest of Syriah's high school career. Joy for the future to come. Most of all, the overwhelming joy of the Daniels family being alive and together on such an occasion. Syriah has always looked up to her parents, something that went beyond their basketball careers. Syriah recounted, "They never failed to mention to me how proud they were." The insurmountable love extended far beyond basketball. They were a tight-knit family. Their hardships only grew them closer to each other. It's something evident in everything Syriah did and continues to do.

Shanna (Askew) Daniels with Marquis Daniels
Shanna (Askew) Daniels with Marquis Daniels on Monday, Feb. 8, 2020 in Auburn, Ala. Todd Van Emst/AU Athletics

Eventually, a while after overcoming breast cancer, the Daniels were hit with the unfortunate news that the cancer had returned. It had now traveled to her brain, diminishing her chances of survival. On June 12, 2023, Shana passed away following her second fight with cancer. Her impact became overwhelmingly apparent following her passing as many remembered the beautiful soul Shana had. Several recalled just how much she valued the gift of life after surviving breast cancer. She wonderfully shared her perspective stating, "If you ever get in a storm, you have to understand the storm is not going to always last. There's going to be some type of sunlight at the end of the tunnel. Stay prayerful and be encouraged." If her passing proved anything, it proved how loved she was by so many.

During the 2023-2024 season, the expectations shifted much for Syriah. Many didn't know what to expect after such a loss. If anything, Syriah worked to prove them wrong. During the season opener, Daniels put up 30 points against Carver Montgomery. In the following weeks, she continued averaging twenty to thirty points consistently. During an away game versus Smiths Station, Daniels scored a massive 38 points and had a field goal percentage of 75%. It was a statement win solidifying what Daniels had done continuously all year.

Rematched with Smiths Station, Daniels stepped on her home court on an extra sedimental night. During the halfway mark of the 1st quarter, Syriah stepped up to the free-throw line and sank her shot. She had just hit 2000 career points, better yet, on her late mother's birthday. With her father and siblings joining her on the court and the gym filled with shades of pink, it was undoubtedly a night to remember. Although Shana was not visible, Syriah knew she was close as she was every game. Daniels told the Auburn Villager, "I knew she was out there with me. I talk to her almost every game. With every adversity we face on the court and every shot, I tell her, 'I thought of you."

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Syriah Daniels prepares for the free throw that pushed her over 2,000 points. (Photo: Jason Caldwell, 247Sports)

The ladies closed their incredible season in the Final 4, falling to the Hoover Bucs. Although not the storybook ending many hoped for, it marked the end of an incredible year of women's basketball. Syriah Daniels will continue her journey on the plains when she takes the court for Auburn University next season. Meanwhile, Antwan's will continue to be a huge factor for the Men's team next season. There is no doubt, that the legacy of Shana Daniels will live on through Antwan. The Daniels family will forever be etched in Auburn High history.


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