To put it kindly, DeAndre Daniels was struggling.
The junior big man, whom many tabbed as a key to UConn’s success this season, was much more non-factor than X-factor through the Huskies' opening three games.
Daniels was pegged to be a breakout star, as the Huskies would need a scorer to ease the pressure on pint-sized point guards Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright. However, with only 19 points, including a whopping zero against Yale, through his first three games, Daniels had all but disappeared.
That is, until Sunday’s 77-60 win over Boston University, as Daniels finally displayed the pure aggression that made him UConn’s best offensive threat down the home stretch last season.
Daniels, who finished the game with 24 points on 10-of-18 shooting, took advantage of the Terriers' zone, as the junior forward was able to find space throughout the game.
However, the Daniels of the past few weeks would have done little with what was given to him. He would have been tentative. He would have been scared. He would have been wasteful.
Not today, as Daniels' play showed glimpses of what he could become with a just little bit of confidence.
"My confidence is still there," said Daniels, whose thunderous tomahawk jam in the second half was the play of the game. "Whether I make it or I miss it, I’m going to stay aggressive and keep shooting the ball and just go from there."
One person who was impressed with Daniels’ effort was coach Kevin Ollie, who wanted to make sure he got Daniels going early.
"DeAndre’s got confidence," said Ollie, whose team is off to a 4-0 start. "He went in a little mini-slump and he’s out of it."
However, Daniels’ harshest critic was himself, as he was quick to point out that he knew exactly how much he was struggling.
"I played awful," said Daniels to describe the start to his season. "Its simple. I played awful. I shot the ball awful. I didn’t rebound. I was selfish. I wasn’t playing hard because I wasn’t making shots. It was getting to my head and I wasn’t focused. I was just selfish."
Despite Daniels’ in-game struggles, Ollie was pleased with how his forward handled his struggles off the court.
"One thing I did hear from DeAndre was ‘no excuses,'" added Ollie to describe his big man. "He said, 'Coach. I’m going to stay in this gym. I’m going to get it done. I’ll be there for you.' A lot of guys on other teams might have come in my office and complained, but I didn’t hear a peep out of him. That’s a good thing."
If the Huskies' season is going to turn into a good thing, DeAndre Daniels will have to be a major contributor. If Sunday’s performance is truly the reinvigoration of Daniels' game, the Huskies will be a handful for any team standing across from them this season.
Which DeAndre Daniels will we see Thursday night against Boston College? Have your say with a comment below or tweet @R_Tolmich with your prediction.
*All quotes obtained firsthand*
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