PVAMU's Diana Rosenthal dribbling past University of Florida defenders.
PVAMU's Diana Rosenthal. Credit: Prairie View Athletic Department

You won’t ever hear Prairie View A&M senior guard Diana Rosenthal admit it but there are nights when imposing teams can’t hold her.

She locks in and is relentless on the basketball court, driving to the basket, pulling up on the perimeter and knocking down shots from mid-range – doing whatever it takes to lead the Lady Panthers to victory. On those nights, it’s like Rosenthal can’t be stopped.

“I try to stay away from the arrogant thing, however, I do feel like I am a hooper and I hold my ground,” Rosenthal said recently to The Defender. “I try my best to be a threat in all possible aspects. I won’t say that nobody can hold me, but I’m a hooper. I am one of those streetball hoopers that be in the hood. I’m that.”

She honed her skills playing on the rough courts with the guys in St. Petersburg, Fla. Nothing was given. Everything was earned.

Life on the concrete courts wasn’t all that much different than everyday life for Rosenthal, whose father, Charles Edward Rosenthal, raised Diana and her brother by himself. There was a lot of love in the household. There wasn’t a lot of money.

“My dad is my everything, my brother is, too,” she said. “They are pretty much all I’ve got. We’ve been on some hard times.”

But those times are what have shaped Rosenthal and made her the unquestioned leader of the Panthers, who sit in first place in the SWAC.

Rosenthal didn’t have the benefit of playing AAU basketball with other girls her age or going home to be a normal teenager while attending Lakewood High School in St. Pete. As soon as basketball practice ended at 5 p.m., most days she headed straight to her full-time job at McDonald’s where she worked from 6 until 11 .

“Then on those days I did not work, I was on the court,” Rosenthal said. “When I got out of practice, I was going to the outside court because I couldn’t afford the inside courts. So I had to hoop on those until the lights went off around 11:30.”

Rosenthal has carried that work ethic to PVAMU where she has grown from a wide-eyed freshman four years ago to the Panthers’ star and leader. She leads the SWAC’s top-scoring team in scoring, averaging 16.6 points, which is fourth in the conference.

Thanks to Rosenthal’s leadership and a talented cast around her which includes TaMiracle Taylor, Nyam Thornton, Destiny Jenkins and Gerlyn Smith, the Lady Panthers (7-9 overall, 4-1 SWAC) are off to a surprising start in conference play.

Rosenthal, a preseason All-SWAC First-Team player, was recently named SWAC Impact Player of the Week after averaging 23 points and 6.5 rebounds in games against Grambling State and Southern.

But as good as things are going now, Rosenthal admits that it was a process for her to get to this point, especially from a leadership standpoint. She had to learn the subtle differences in how she talked to people on the courts in the streets in St. Pete to how to talk to her current teammates so that what she is saying is being received in the right way.

“Being okay with taking criticism from your teammates, from coaches, from outside sources and from your family,” said Rosenthal, who also is averaging 2.2 steals, 2.1 three-pointers and shooting 39 percent from the field – all top five stats in the SWAC. “Be okay with taking criticism. It’s okay for people to tell you, `Hey, I don’t like how you talk to me. Maybe you can tone it down a little bit.’ Just stuff like that. There are learning lessons.”

Those lessons learned have resulted in better success on the basketball court for the Panthers this season. PVAMU was picked to finish seventh in the SWAC Preseason Poll, but currently sits tied for first place with Southern and that shows the Panthers are taking the respect that Rosenthal feels they have been denied for so long.

“I think the thing for me is it’s senior year so it’s more so redemption for me,” she said. “I feel like PV does not get the recognition that we deserve. We have talented women’s basketball players and I’m willing to put Prairie View on the map, St. Petersburg on the map and especially the name Rosenthal on the map. I feel like we have a lot of talent and we don’t get a lot of recognition.”