At 1:47PM today, Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted the news that UConn fans feared was coming. DeAndre Daniels will enter the NBA Draft.
It's a bittersweet moment for Husky fans. Bitter in the fact that next year's team with DeAndre Daniels would have been a National Championship favorite from the start of the season, but sweet because it ensures that our last memory of DeAndre in a Husky uniform will be that of him holding the National Championship trophy high above his head while surrounded by his teammates on stage after beating Kentucky.
Daniels tenure at UConn can best be described as a roller coaster. The forward out of Los Angeles came into Storrs as a highly touted 4-star prospect whom received a 95 overall rating from ESPN. His hype was met with a disastrous freshman campaign that saw him average 3.0 points per game, shoot 34% from the floor, and find a home in Jim Calhoun's dog house.
His sophomore campaign saw his averages jump to 12.1 points and 5.5 rebounds per game, but what really jumped out was his performance toward the end of the season. Late in the season as the Huskies were playing what they knew would be their final games in a season which they were banned from the postseason, Daniels flashed his potential putting together some very impressive games culminating with his 25 point, 10 rebound performance against Georgetown where he essentially out-dueled Otto Porter until Porter got the last laugh with a game-winning layup in overtime.
This year, DeAndre remained inconsistent throughout the regular season while once again showing his NBA potential from time to time (23 and 11 at Memphis, 31 vs. Temple), but he would still have games where he would just totally disappear and look disinterested. Going into the postseason, it was well known that the Huskies would need someone besides Shabazz Napier to step up if they were going to go anywhere. Insert DeAndre. Daniels scored double digits in all four AAC Tournament games (17,14,13,17) and then took it to the next level come the NCAA Tournament.
It's safe to say that the Sweet Sixteen game against Iowa State was Daniels first "Wow" moment. He scored 27 points on 10-15 shooting to go along with 10 rebounds and made it look so easy. He hit multiple back to the basket turnaround jumpers, and was getting into the paint at will. He looked downright NBA-ready. After having a 12 and 8 performance in the Elite Eight against Michigan State, he once again took over in the Final Four game against Florida putting up 20 points on 9-14 shooting to go along with 10 rebounds. He was the best player on the court in those two games and the NBA scouts took notice. Sure he only had 8 points on 4-14 shooting and 6 rebounds in the Championship game vs. Kentucky, but it was very clear he had done enough to make testing the draft waters a real possibility.
Daniels is currently projected to go in the 1st round, 25th overall in NBAdraft.net's latest mock draft. Other draft sites still have him listed in the 2015 mock draft (also mid to late first round) so it will be interesting to see where they put him now. He must have heard from enough scouts and NBA sources that he would be selected in the first round, especially with this draft class being considered deeper than next years.
For the 2014-15 UConn team, it opens the door wide for Kentan Facey to earn a starting spot next year after a freshman year spent mostly on the bench and gives incoming freshman Rakim Lubin an opportunity for minutes from the start of the season.
For DeAndre, it's a new chapter and he shows future recruits that UConn still can take their top recruits and get them to the NBA in less than four years. It also makes this upcoming draft much more exciting with two potential first round picks.
Best of luck to you DeAndre, thanks for the memories and even better, a national championship.