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More than a basketball player

D'Angelo Minnis attempts a layup at a home game on Saturday, Feb. 22. // Photo by Alix Condit

By Connor J. Benintendi

It's 5:30 a.m. and inside the nearly silent Sam Carver Gymnasium you can hear a lone basketball ricocheting off the wooden floor of WECU Court. Vikings’ men’s basketball red-shirt freshman point guard, D’Angelo Minnis, is performing his daily ritual: putting up 500-1000 shots before he starts his day.

Minnis adopted the routine after his sophomore season at Kentwood High School, when he heard that two-time NBA Most Valuable Player, Stephen Curry, would do the same when he played for Davidson College.

“I feel weird if I don’t do it,” Minnis said.

His father, De’Shawn Minnis, would take him to the gym five days a week each morning before school to do it with him.

“It's what got me to this place, special moments with my dad,” Minnis said.

Basketball is one of the many things in his life that Minnis holds close. Minnis said he has a goal this year to read 52 books, and inspires his passion for business by studying successful individuals like Amazon CEO and president, Jeff Bezos, and best-selling business author, Grant Cardone.

He makes his studies a focal point and is working towards a degree in computer science, all while constantly trying to improve his relationship with God.

“Discipline and commitment are two of the strong words that would describe him,” Jennifer Minnis, D’Angelo’s mother, said. “He's very kind. He's humble. He doesn't act any certain way or have an overbearing personality.”

There is an abundant similarity and excitement in what people close to Minnis say about him and the words they choose to describe him with.

D'Angelo Minnis posing with childhood friend Eddie Turner. // Photo courtesy of D'Angelo Minnis

“All the energy that he puts into school, he puts that same amount of energy into practice,” said Eddie Turner, one of Minnis’ closest confidants and friends. “To do that you have to have a lot of discipline.”

Minnis said he wants the world to know that he’s more than just a basketball player.

“I truly don't believe that you could leave a mark on the world if you're not your best,” Minnis said. “That's why I work so hard in basketball and in other areas, to improve every aspect of my life. That way I can become my best self.”

Minnis said that he keeps his goals to himself, so that nobody can stop him from achieving them. He also keeps a very close social circle and said he surrounds himself with like-minded people who want the best for each other.

“I love that man,” said Jaylin Booker, Minnis’ long-time childhood friend. “This guy is relentless, he does not get tired. [D’Angelo] loves the process more than the result and that’s the best thing about him.”

Minnis said that without his support system he wouldn’t be in the same mind frame he is now, and that they were an integral part in his decision to attend Western.

Minnis and his family of four grew up in Renton before moving to Kent when he was in first grade. In his senior year of high school his family moved to Covington . Minnis has a close relationship with his younger brother, Marquis, and said that he always tries to lead by example for him.

Minnis has been playing basketball since the age of four. Much of Minnis’ basketball experience comes from playing in the Amateur Athletic Union, or AAU, which he was a part of until he committed to play for Western.

“As soon as I was able to walk, my dad would bring me to the basketball court,” Minnis said.

It wasn’t until middle school that Minnis said he decided to pursue basketball seriously. 

Regularly being the smallest player on the court, Minnis said he had to focus heavily on his defense early in his basketball career just to stay on the floor. He currently stands at 5 feet, 10 inches, according to WWU Athletics.

“I didn’t start scoring the basketball until my freshman year of high school,” Minnis said. “I was the quickest guy on the court so I just played full-court defense.”

Due to his size, Minnis regularly found himself on the perimeter, which began the development of his lethal 3-point shot. Currently Minnis holds the Kentwood High School single-game record of nine made threes in a contest, which he did against Kentridge High School during his senior year. He is leading Western this season with a team-high 49 made threes.

According to Minnis, he models his offensive game after his favorite NBA player, point guard Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers.

“Back when I was in high school, I had all his shoes,” Minnis said. “The only shoes I wore were his shoes.”

It wasn’t until his junior season at Kentwood that Minnis started getting consistent playing time on the varsity team. He was an integral part in helping his team win the 4A State Championship against Union High School that year. The following season, all the previous starters graduated and Minnis was pushed into a leadership role.

Minnis said his former high school head coach at Kentwood High School, Blake Solomon, would give him self-improvement articles to read and they’d meet to discuss them to strengthen his voice as a leader.

“That year he was the guy that everybody looked up to because he was such a part of what we did the year before,” Solomon said. 

Minnis went on to win Most Valuable Player of the 4A North Puget Sound League, Cascade Division that season, a goal that he’d written down and hung on his wall before the season started, and led his team back to the state tournament with  a 19-8 record. 

“D’Angelo is by far one of my favorite kids I've ever coached,” Solomon said. “He's a very genuine person, and he's one of the hardest workers that I've been around. He knows he's going to be successful.” 

Following a decorated high school career, Minnis said he finished his senior year with only a few scholarship offers from Division III schools and junior colleges. He was still playing AAU basketball before meeting Western’s head assistant coach, David Dunham. 

Western guard D'Angelo Minnis (5) driving between Saint Martin's defenders on Feb. 20. // Photo by Alix Condit

Minnis said he was arranging to play at a junior college before Western finally offered him a scholarship. 

“What brought me to Western is their winning culture,” Minnis said. “I wanted to be able to come and make my own footprint here.” 

After red-shirting last season, Minnis has already found a role in the starting lineup in just his first regular season in a Western uniform. 

“As far as D’Angelo goes, he is a motor for us,” Tony Dominguez, Western’s head coach, said in a postgame interview on Feb. 8. “Defensively, he is the heart of our team, so we ride that.” 

While continuing to further himself in basketball, Minnis hopes to also keep improving the lives of those around him. 

“My biggest aim in life is to help others become the best person they can possibly be, by first becoming the best person I can possibly be,” Minnis said. “There’s no limit to what you can be. You’ll never know how far you can go and that’s the beauty of life.”

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