CHICAGO — DeAndre Daniels hopes to follow Kevin Ollie's advice and "separate himself" from the crowd of players available in the NBA draft.
"He always preaches doing the small things," Daniels told the Chicago Tribune on Thursday after a day of workouts at the NBA Combine at the Quest Sports Complex. "Just separate yourself from all of the other guys, do the small things. I definitely know the small things help me."
Daniels raised a few eyebrows when he announced on April 25 that he would bypass his final year at UConn and enter the NBA draft. People close to the program have said Ollie recommended Daniels return for his senior year, but supported the decision once it was made. Daniels spent time with his family following the Huskies' national championship and decided it was time to move on.
"A lot of people feel differently, but at the end of the day, it was my decision and I felt it was right," Daniels said.
Daniels has met with the Mavericks, Pistons, Pelicans and Wizards this week. Various projections have him going in the second round, but his stock could be rising because of his performance in the NCAA Tournament. He averaged 16 points and seven rebounds, getting 27 and 10 against Iowa State, and 20 and 10 against Florida. Though Daniels was inconsistent over his career at UConn, he showed impressive flashes and NBA scouts began paying attention late in his sophomore year.
UConn lists Daniels at 6 feet 9. At the combines, he measured 6-7 ¼ without shoes, 6-8 ½ with shoes and 196 pounds, with a standing reach of 8-10 ½ and a wingspan of 7-2. He played power forward in college. He was tough to guard for slower, thicker forwards, but sometimes was outmuscled.
"I'm a small forward, and I've been banging with the big guys my entire college career," Daniels said. "I need to gain weight, but for my weight, I'm pretty strong. …"I'm a basketball player. I'm a guy who can go out and do whatever they need me to do, whatever they want me to do. If that's rebound, knock down open shots in the corner, whatever the coaches want me to do."
Joining Daniels among the 60 elite players at the combines was Shabazz Napier, who played for four years. Like Daniels, Napier's stock seems to be on the rise. He is projected as a late first-round pick, though teams picking higher have been doing homework on him.
UConn listed Napier, who led the team in rebounding for most of the season, at 6-1. At the combines he measured 5-11 without shoes, and 175 pounds, with a standing reach of 7-9 and a wingspan of 6-3 ¼.
Napier, in an interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer, credited Ollie for preparing him for the pre-draft work.
"Have fun with it," Napier said. "Take a lot of mental notes. Understand what guys are looking for, what guys want you to work on and try to be great at those things. At the same time, make sure you push yourself at the things you do well. Make them even better.''
Ollie played 13 seasons in the NBA for 11 franchises, working on short-term contracts most of his career. His experience, Napier said, helped UConn players now looking to make it in the league.
"It teaches you how to deal with things," Napier told the Plain Dealer. "He doesn't want anyone else to be in that position. He made sure every single day that we gave everything we've got. He made sure that we understand that you don't get this day back, so you've got to push to the next level. … You don't know what your future holds for you. You have to prepare for it. You have to get ready for it. He made sure we all did that."
Players participated in various shooting drills, shooting uncontested, off the dribble and on-the-the move from various ranges.
Ollie To Help Unveil Logo
Ollie will be at the XL Center Friday morning with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra to unveil the logo designed for the American Athletic Conference men's basketball tournament, which will be played there in March 2015.
Rich Mayor of the Chicago Tribune reported from the combine