Things have been pretty quiet on the UConn front in terms of news on Ryan Boatright and DeAndre Daniels NBA decisions. Both players were integral to our National Championship run, and if both were to return, UConn could do big things.
We discussed Boatright's situation earlier this week; his decision is one which I am much more confident about predicting. While he has aspirations to play professionally, and even considered leaving after last year, Ryan Boatright is currently a fringe prospect and would benefit greatly from a successful year as 'the man' to boost his draft stock in very much the same way Shabazz Napier did this year. I think he stays.
DeAndre Daniels is a much more complex situation. On one hand, he was practically unstoppable in the postseason. He had a little bit of a clunker in the National Championship, but before that he was riding a nine-game double digit scoring streak with eight or more rebounds in six of those games. This includes a 20-10 performance against top-seeded Florida in the Final Four and a 27-10 masterpiece against Iowa State in the Sweet 16.
We called him the X-factor all season, and in the end he came through when it mattered most. Scouts take notice when you play well on the games highest stage.
Daniels strikes me as the kind of player who could actually be a better fit in the pro game than in college. His sweet shooting stroke combined with solid abilities down low must have NBA GM's salivating. His length and athleticism render the fact that he wasn't dominant all season moot. NBA teams often make draft decisions on potential, and perhaps one year in the D-league with a professional conditioning regiment will make him the player that he needs to be to flourish in The Association.
On the other side of the coin, what does Daniels gain by staying? Well for one thing he avoids a critically acclaimed 2014 draft class which probably pushes his best case scenario to outside of the lottery. Jabari Parker, Julius Randle, Kyle Anderson, Aaron Gordon, and Cleanthony Early all offer similar skill-sets and are all rated ahead of him as of right now at his position according to nbadraft.net – which has Daniels going No. 25 overall. DraftExpress has DeAndre as a late-first round pick as well... in 2015.
If he stays, Daniels will also have the opportunity to play with longtime friend and fellow LA native Daniel Hamilton, who joins UConn next year as an incoming freshman. Hamilton, ranked No.14 overall in Rivals' final rankings for the class of 2014, has publicly campaigned for DeAndre to stay. That same article though has a quote which implies that Daniels was leaning towards leaving:
While Hamilton said he did not speak to Daniels regarding his draft decision, he did sent him a "congratulations" message after the Huskies won the NCAA Championship. DeAndre's response, - "Appreciate it, it's your turn now" - might seem to presage a departure for Daniels, however.
A lot can happen between the day you win the National Championship and the day before you need to declare. If DeAndre doesn't hear what he needs to from his advisors and confidantes or notices that people with higher draft stock than he (i.e. Montrezl Harrell, Alex Poythress) are opting to stay, maybe he's a little bit less confident than he was right then.
His hesitation is curious as most early entrance candidates have declared their intentions to stay or go by this point. Daniels is clearly doing as much due diligence as possible to support his decision.
If he chooses to stay and Boatright does too, I'll actually go ahead and book my flight to Indianapolis for early April. With him on the squad along with the returning and incoming talent, UConn's 2014-15 team could actually be better than the team that just won it all. I don't want to get too excited thinking about that just yet.
He really can't go wrong here. If he stays, he gets to hone his game under the tutelage of one of the best coaches in basketball, hang out with friends in a comfortable collegiate environment, go for the repeat, play Duke in the regular season, earn his degree and potentially become a Top 10 pick in 2015. As the No. 10 prospect in the Class of 2011, I'm sure he didn't envision staying all four years here, and for whatever reason scouts appear to have an aversion to seniors as having hit the ceiling of their potential, but I still think DeAndre has a lot to gain by staying a year. Especially because this years draft class is so stacked.
If he goes, he gets paid to do what he loves and he earned it. He should go late first round, but things get dicey if he slips into the second. Still, paths to the NBA have evolved and making a stop in the D-League is a hell of a lot better than rotting away on someones bench in "the majors" or getting hurt in college before you can cash in on your athletic ability.
Either way, it has been an absolute pleasure to watch DeAndre Daniels play, especially to see him put it together at the end of this year and propel us to a fourth (!) title. But for the love of everything that is holy please stay DeAndre. Because it would be awesome.
What do you think, does he stay or does he go? Why?