Thursday, Jan. 22, 2009 | 4:09 p.m.
Dannielle Diamant has gotten used to growing up with a celebrity in her family.
The Bishop Gorman senior basketball player's grandfather is former UNLV men's coach Jerry Tarkanian, who led the Rebels to four Final Four appearances and an NCAA championship in 1990. Though Tarkanian hasn't coached in Las Vegas since 1992, Diamant is still often associated with her grandfather.
There was the time Gorman boys' volleyball coach Paul Hollander had his picture taken with Tarkanian and asked Diamant to have her grandfather sign the photo.
And this month, Diamant and a handful of friends attended a Rebels game and were allowed to enter the team's tunnel.
"My friends were all like, 'Well this is what it's like to get special treatment because you're Tarkanian's granddaughter,'" Diamant said. "That's just something I've grown accustomed to, but it's so special to everyone else."
Diamant does not enjoy the social perks granted to her because of her grandfather nearly as much as she enjoys the basketball advice she has gotten from him over the years. She said Tarkanian began giving her tips on the court when she was in seventh grade, and they've proved useful ever since.
"He would take me and some girls I played club with to go work out," Diamant said. "When it came time for running, he would gather our fastest guards on the court and be like, 'Okay Dannielle, you have to beat them.' That got me a lot faster over the years, which is good because I used to be very slow."
Tarkanian can be seen attending Diamant's most important games. He also attended multiple Gorman practices last season to instruct his granddaughter and the rest of the Gaels.
"I watched her a lot when she first started, and she's just gotten better and better," Tarkanian said. "It's been very enjoyable watching her improve. She has good hands and can shoot the ball. I think she's getting quicker, and she's going to be very good. I'm very proud of her."
Diamant is now a key player for Gorman, the three-time defending state champion. The 6-foot-4 forward averages 14 points, eight rebounds and three blocks.
Gorman coach Sheryl Krmpotich said Diamant has become too dominant for many opposing teams to contend with.
"She's our Shaquille O'Neal, our Karl Malone type of player," Krmpotich said. "She can really finish around the basket and has great moves — right hand, left hand. Where some kids are one-dimensional, she is that versatile athlete and does a multitude of things that make her difficult to guard."
Diamant committed to Northwestern this summer, choosing the Wildcats over offers from Duke, Cal, Nebraska and Washington State.
Diamant said Tarkanian still gives her basketball tips and often calls her when she is out of town playing in tournaments.
"When we were in Arizona for the Tournament of Champions (last month) he was calling my mom every day to find out how we were doing," Diamant said. "He wanted me to call him back so we could talk about how I was playing. He definitely shows an interest, and I feel honored for that."
Even though Diamant is listed in almost all of her recruiting bios as Tarkanian's granddaughter, Tarkanian said he had nothing to do with Diamant's college choice, adding he was surprised Diamant chose a school so far from home.
"Having him as my grandpa definitely sparked an interest with some schools," she said. "But I'd definitely have to prove I can play. I don't think anybody would give me a scholarship just because I was his granddaughter."
Before Diamant begins proving herself at the next level, she first has unfinished business at Bishop Gorman. Though she has a college scholarship and three state championship rings, Diamant said she still has much to accomplish as a Gael.
A four-year varsity player, Diamant has a chance to win a state championship all four years of her high school career. She also is eager to set an example for the Gaels' younger players and help them win a title.
"I come out here and see juniors and sophomores that I've played with," Diamant said. "Seeing how hard they're working and thinking back to how much I've had to run over the years makes me feel like I owe them something. I've kind of gotten my stuff done, but now I feel it's time to help them."
Christopher Drexel can be reached at 990-8929 or [email protected].