Former SJU star moving on with basketball and life

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Danielle Chambers was supposed to be home for just a short time, but ended up staying much longer. The former St. John’s University star flew back to Brooklyn from Spain to train before heading to Turkey to play basketball professionally in November 2007.

After she left a workout, the Bishop Loughlin grad was walking through the streets of Park Slope when she was hit by a taxi while crossing the street by a local Pathmark. Chambers was hurt badly, but had no clue of the severity of her injuries.

The more news she got, the worse her situation became.

“When I got hit, my skull was cracked a little bit, but I was like, ‘I’ll be fine, it’s just a little damage,’” Chambers said. “After [doctors] did nerve tests and an MRI, they said your back is messed up. I was like, ‘Oh, there are plenty of players who play with a hurt back. I’ll be back. It’s not going to be a big deal.’”

The bruising, 6-foot forward spent time playing overseas after graduating from St. John’s in 2006. That season she averaged 8.3 points and 9 rebounds per game as she helped lead the Red Storm to its first NCAA tournament bid since 1988 and a spot in the second round. She was a ferocious rebounder, tough insider scorer and an even tougher defender. Chambers, who spent time on the FIBA circuit, then played in places like Spain, Italy, the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria and Amsterdam.

Her accident ended all of that.

She suffered two herniated discs in her back along with a pinched nerve. Chambers stayed at home after and went for physical therapy. She didn’t work out or try to play any basketball until July of that year. Chambers admitted she was overweight after gaining 30 pounds and just couldn’t perform on the court the way she used to.

“I started to try to play and it was just not the same,” she said.

Since then, Chambers has had to give up the long practices, plane rides and chances to travel all over the world. She recently started an environmentally friendly T-shirt design company called Due Justice with her younger sister, Jewels, a biomedical engineer from RPI. She had been a fan of creative and funny slogan T-shirts and didn’t have a place to easily buy them anymore.

“That was the furthest thing from my mind,” Chambers said when asked if she ever thought she’d end up running a T-shirt company. “It’s so much easier with basketball. It’s just natural to do it. Everything is just reaction.”

She hasn’t given up totally on the game. Chambers dedicated herself to getting back into shape by taking spinning classes and strengthening her legs and abs. She began playing again regularly this summer with friend and longtime summer league teammate Michelle Campbell, who starred at Rutgers, in the West 4th league. Her squad recently won the Nike Tournament of Champions, beating the winner from the Uptown Challenge Saturday at Goat Park in Manhattan.

“Playing here is one thing,” Chambers said. “Playing overseas is another thing. It’s a different level of basketball.”

But after what she went through, it’s certainly better than nothing.

Posted 6:34 pm, October 10, 2011
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