In ninth grade, Morgan State women’s basketball forward Dahnye Redd found her identity on the court. One day before an AAU game, she put a bandage below her right eye. It wasn’t because of an injury. It was just something she decided to do. She played well with it and from that day, Dahnye Redd became the “Band-Aid girl” to those who watched her play.
“It’s something about it that made me want to keep wearing it,” Redd said. “That’s going to be my identity, that’s what I’m going to be known as, that’s my signature look, my ritual, my game day ritual. That’s what it started as. It’s literally a ritual I do every single time. Dahnye Redd without the Band-Aid, it don’t sound right.”
Despite a few close calls, Redd hasn’t played a game without the Band-Aid on her right eye since. It’s taken her on a winding journey from Darby, Pa., to Harford Community College to Morgan State, where the 5-foot-11 redshirt senior is averaging a team-high 13.4 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. The Bears were scheduled to wrap up the regular season against Delaware State March 3-4, but the back-to-back set was canceled by the Hornets. Next up for Morgan is the MEAC tournament, which is scheduled for March 7-13.
Morgan is currently 11-3 overall and finished second in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference’s North Division at 8-2. The Bears didn’t play for much of February due to a pause, but they returned against Coppin State Feb. 27-28 and came away with two wins. Head coach Ed Davis also returned to the sideline Feb. 27 after suffering a medical event against Navy Dec. 18.
While Davis was recovering, associate head coach Wanika Owsley ran the team. Owsley recently mentioned Redd in the same breath as former Bears stars Adre’onia Coleman, Jihayah Chavis, Chelsea Mitchell and Tykyrah Williams.
“She’s meant a lot,” Owsley said. “Honestly we’ve had some great players come through here and Dahnye goes in that … category.”
Before coming to Morgan State, Redd attended HCC since she lacked the grades to attend a Division I school. She thought it would be a one-year pit stop, but she ended up staying for three years. She averaged 10.9 points and 10.3 rebounds per game as a freshman but played in just seven games as a sophomore before earning a medical redshirt because of a lingering knee injury. As a redshirt sophomore, she was even better, averaging 21.0 points and 13.8 rebounds per game.
According to Owsley, Morgan State is always looking for junior college transfers since their adjustment to Division I college basketball isn’t as harsh as other incoming freshmen. The Bears have several former junior college players on their team, including Redd. For Owsley, it was Redd’s motor that stuck out immediately.
“She was in there playing at all times,” Owsley said. “There wasn’t a possession that she took off. She played hard she gave it her heart.”
Redd’s transition to Division I appeared seamless. She scored in double figures in Morgan State’s first eight games of the 2019-20 season, which included a double-double against Nebraska. Redd added another four double-doubles during MEAC play. For the season, she averaged 13.4 points and 7.5 rebounds per game on her way to a third-team All-MEAC selection.
This year, Redd has put up similar numbers but has a different focus on the court. Instead of just focusing on scoring and rebounding, she’s trying to be more of a leader and expand her game. As a senior leader, she’s trying to make sure the team is still working as hard so it can continue to succeed.
“We have a lot of upperclassmen but overall we have a younger team. We have a fresh, new team,” Redd said. “As a returner, knowing how [the coaches] want things run, just being the enforcer, just trying to mentor people. That’s the role I’m trying to play this year.”
For Owsley, that attitude sets the tone for the entire team.
“If your No. 1 player is coming into practice every day and showing that same work ethic, working like a dog — in practice and out of practice — and she’s giving it to you, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be giving it [your all],” Owsley said.”So you make the progress if your top players [are] giving you that every day.”
That attitude has fueled Morgan State, who continues to fly under the radar despite finishing third in the MEAC with a 12-4 league record last year. The Bears have put together back-to-back winning seasons in the MEAC for the first time since they had five straight from 2006-07 to 2010-11.
That would mark the next stage of a steady climb the program has enjoyed under Davis since he took over the program before the 2016-17 season. The Bears finished 7-9 in the MEAC that year and 8-8 the next two years before breaking through last season.
This year is about proving that last year wasn’t a fluke — and that the Bears’ success isn’t built off of one player serving as a Band-Aid for the entire roster, but rather a solid foundation.
“We take that disrespect as motivation,” Redd said. “That’s all it is. It gives us motivation because we don’t know what we’re doing to people but for them to not think we belong here, we use every doubter as motivation.”
This story was updated to reflect the Morgan State-Delaware State cancellation.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Johnson