The way Central Valley senior Austin Daines sees it, you only go through high school once so you might as well get every ounce of joy out of it.
And what’s in a nickname anyway? Even if it’s a nickname perhaps a male wouldn’t naturally embrace.
Friends, teammates, classmates and teachers usually don’t use Daines’ first name when addressing him. The moniker used is a play off his last name and the name of a common flower, too.
Welcome to Daisy Daines’ world.
“In the fourth grade AJ Knudsen and I were on a basketball team and his dad, Ron, was our coach,” Daines said. “He called his son Austin and me Daines. People kept calling me Daines because there were like six Austins in our class. Then it went to Dainesy in the sixth grade. In seventh grade it morphed into Daisy as a joke at first. I put Daisy on the back of my basketball sweatshirt and from there it stuck. I love it.”
Most of his basketball coaches, including CV head coach Rick Sloan, address him as Daisy. All except varsity assistant and junior varsity coach Mike Laws.
“He refuses to call me Daisy,” Daines said. “My sophomore year when I was on JV he called me either Austin or Daines.”
Daines wants to convert him.
Sloan doesn’t hesitate in games. If he wants Daines’ attention, he yells Daisy.
“There are times I forget his first name,” Sloan said.
Last spring, Daines decided to run for student body president. His slogan: Pick Daisy.
“I wanted it to be funny and appealing,” Daines said. “My name on the ballot was ‘Daisy Daines.’ ”
It takes a teenager confident in his own skin to pull it off.
In CV’s first four games, he’s taken more grief for his hair color than his nickname.
Back in early November, Daines and CV’s student government made a bet with the student body. If students could raise $10,000 for a food drive, they’d color their hair.
Daines was overjoyed that the final count came in at about $12,500.
He colored his hair – which was much longer then – blond. Then he shaved his head.
“Opposing students have been calling me Justin Timberlake,” Daines said. “They’re even yelling out names of his most popular songs.”
Go by CV before or after school and you’ll find Daines greeting or saying goodbye to students.
“It makes a difference to some of these kids who don’t get greeted very often,” CV ASB adviser Leanne Donley said. “He knows the kids by name. The kids know he’s genuine. They have a good smell factor.”
Donley is in her 18th year as CV’s ASB adviser. Daines is one of her all-time favorite students.
“He’s super humble. He’s a total servant,” Donley said. “I don’t want him to graduate. I may flunk him in my leadership class so I can keep him another year. He’s training up other kids to be future leaders. He wants to leave a legacy.”
Did we say the 6-foot-2½ Daines plays basketball, too? He’s in his second year starting for Sloan.
He averaged 6.6 points and six rebounds per game last year as CV took fourth at state. With two other starters and key reserves back this season, the Bears are seeking a brighter trophy.
“The summer before his junior year he really started to emerge,” Sloan said. “He’s a blue-collar, lunch-pail guy. We needed a rebounder and defender and he morphed right into that role.”
Sloan has an affinity for players like Daines.
“There are minutes available if you can take care of the ball and play defense,” Sloan said. “He had an excellent season last year. He filled a void. He exceeded our expectations.”
Sloan took Daines aside last summer and asked him to be more offensive-minded this year. The Bears had to replace the points lost with the graduation of Austin Rehkow.
“He’s getting better but he would just as soon pass it than shoot it,” Sloan said. “He’s pretty selfless. He needs to be a little more selfish at times and score more.”
He’s averaging 6.8 points so far.
“I feel confident when I shoot but I feel like there are others who are better shooters than me,” Daines said.
Said Sloan: “He’s certainly capable. He’s very athletic and has great timing. He has a nose for the ball. He’s a great teammate. He doesn’t care who scores as long as we score. You’d take a team full of kids like him.”
Daines said the Bears have high expectations this season.
“We’ll go as far as our defense will take us,” he said. “It’s all about defense.”
And Daisy can be found smack dab in the middle of it.