Utes’ Daneesha Provo is what National Girls and Women in Sports Day is all about

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah guard Daneesha Provo (23) works the ball inside in Pac-12 basketball action against the Colorado Buffaloes at the Jon M. Huntsman Center, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019.

The University of Utah women’s basketball team has a high-profile weekend in front of it, with No. 3 Oregon in town Thursday and No. 10 Oregon State coming to the Huntsman Center on Saturday.

On Saturday, the Utes will observe National Girls and Women in Sports Day. A Ronald Reagan-driven initiative back in 1987, NGWSD recognizes women’s contributions to sports and society.

There are going to be children, young women at the Huntsman Center Saturday. Some of them are presumably starting to fall in love with basketball and in turn, are going to be looking up to the Ute women, just like those collegians once did with whoever their heroes were. What better Ute to look up to than one who has been through a healthy dose of adversity, but stayed the course anyway?


When • Thursday, 8 p.m.

TV • Pac-12 Network

Daneesha Provo made her season debut on Dec. 14, more than 11 months after suffering a right ACL injury, one of a slew of injuries that derailed Utah’s 12-0 start. Provo received a sixth year of eligibility, and has been making the most of, appearing in 11 games, including three starts.

“That’s the cool thing about sports, they can give you an avenue out of challenges and even through them,” Utah coach Lynne Roberts said. “She’s been through a lot, with the transfer ]from Clemson] and different things. This injury was tough, and yeah, I think that’s the beauty of sports and that’s what I love about the National Girls and Women in Sports Day. It’s about empowering girls to find their strength, no matter what they play.”

Said Provo, who noted her knee is at about 90 percent: “I feel like I’m definitely someone these young girls can look up to. I’ve been through it all, and I was once that little girl. Injuries happen, but I love the sport, and I’m going to do whatever I can to keep playing and stay out there.”

Provo still has protective padding on that right knee, and it’s noticeable, but if that is what’s needed for her to be out there, so be it. Beggars can’t be choosers, and Provo isn’t complaining. Instead, she is embracing her elder-statesman role on a young roster where 72 percent of the points have been scored by underclassmen through 19 games.

Provo’s role has increased recently, now sitting at 18.7 minutes per game for the 10-9 Utes, who could reenter the postseason picture with a win or two this weekend. They faced a gantlet of good Pac-12 teams early, including the Ducks and Beavers, but have won three of four.

“It’s going to take a lot of fight this weekend, being fearless, not backing down,” Provo said. “We have to chip away every possession and not take any possessions off because they’re both very good teams and they will pick apart whatever weaknesses you have.”